Saving Mr Banks (2013) Directed by John Lee Hancock. With Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Annie Rose Buckley, Colin Farrell, Ruth Wilson, Paul Giamatti, Kathy Baker and Bradley Whitford.
Saving Mr Banks is the story behind the story of the pre-production of the 1964 classic Disney film, Mary Poppins, starring Emma Thompson as P.L Travers, the author of the famous series of books. Assuming most people aren’t massive Mary Poppins fans, that description alone probably wouldn’t do much to tempt inside, but read on, for like Mary Poppins herself, this is a film with a sprinkling of magic up its sleeve.
Directed by John Lee Hancock, best known for the ‘The Blind Side’, the film is split into two overlapping narratives tracing the history of P.L Travers back to her Australian roots, and her time negotiating with Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) over the rights to make her books into a film.
For the first half of the film, the jumping back and forth in time does seem a little jarring. Mostly because the scenes between Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks are so captivating, and so brilliantly done, that it’s initially hard to have patience with a back story that is, in the end, crucial in resonating the emotional climax of the film.
Although the film is very well directed, it is the brilliantly realised performances from an excellent cast, working with a diamond of a script from Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith, that makes it truly sing. Emma Thompson is once again a wonder to behold, playing the stiff upper lipped Travers with relish and biting wit. Countering her is an excellent Tom Hanks as a warm-hearted Walt Disney, treating his quest to gain control of the rights to Mary Poppins in the same way you might engage a romantic pursuit.
The sight of two class acts like Thompson and Hanks playing characters from distinctly different worlds, going head-to-head, is utterly absorbing. It also offers a fascinating insight into a film that has lit up childhoods the world over. 4/5