Starring: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Annie Rose Buckley
Director: John Lee Hancock
Running Time: 125 mins
Saving Mr. Banks is an American film about the true story of P.L. Travers, author of Mary Poppins, and her trip to Hollywood to discuss the production of a film adaptation of her novel at the studios of the one and only Walt Disney.
This is such a wonderful film. Not only is Saving Mr. Banks a genuinely riveting biography and account of how one of the 20th Century’s most beloved stories came to be one of its most beloved films, but it’s also a wonderful tribute by Disney to both itself, as well as the stories that have allowed it to become the world’s most famous moviemakers, with this biography featuring just as much Disney magic as all of its classic cartoons and fairytales rolled into one.
And if there’s one feeling that I’ll really take away from Saving Mr. Banks, it’s one of joy and wonder, the same sort that all of the best Disney movies have given me time and again. You might think that Disney making a movie about the making one of its own classics is a little bit like patting itself on the back, and while there is a degree of what is unmistakably Disney propaganda to be seen here, Saving Mr. Banks is first and foremost yet another Disney classic, but this time told in a far more genuine and relatable fashion.
Mary Poppins is of course an all-time classic of not just Disney, but cinema too, so it’s wonderful to see a movie like this that pays tribute to the beloved family favourite, featuring references, nods and winks galore to the original movie, and the odd insight about how it all came to be, and that bout of nostalgia is more than enough to get you smiling throughout.
However, rather than being a movie simply about how Mary Poppins was made, Saving Mr. Banks is in fact a far more personal, emotional story about the woman who wrote the original story, before Walt Disney even had the rights to make the movie himself.
While this film bestows all sorts of cheery, delightful Disneyness upon you throughout, what’s most engrossing about it is the story of the author, P.L. Travers, her childhood, and her clashes with the almost all-powerful Walt Disney in preparations for the big screen version of her book.
Emma Thompson puts in a cracking performance as Travers, with just enough charisma and likability deep down to go with a good bit of stuffy, stiff upper-lip Englishness, and it’s through her that we come to learn so much not only about the history of Mary Poppins, but the mechanics of the Walt Disney company too, and how despite its omnipotent presence and powers, she could still stand up and make her voice counted.
Again, the movie (being made by Disney) is never too hard on the company or its founder, but the one nice touch that it does give is its sense of gratitude and indebtedness to Travers, using Saving Mr. Banks as a way to say thank you for the story of Mary Poppins, and finally making a film that’s a little closer to the one she wanted in the first place.
If you know the book, you’ll know Disney’s Mary Poppins is really quite different, but Saving Mr. Banks gives Disney the opportunity to right some wrongs over time, bringing to life some of Travers’ original visions for the movie, and giving you, the viewer, an insight into the history and legacy of what its story is really all about.
So, more than just a biography, Saving Mr. Banks is actually a thank you letter. It tells a gripping, intimate and emotional story at times, all imbued with a touch of cheery Disney magic throughout, but it’s a film with a real conscience, putting right the events of the past that we see played out between Walt Disney and Travers, a bold, kind-hearted and thoroughly touching thing to do, and that’s why I’m giving this film an 8.3 overall.