"Winds in the east...Mist coming in...Like something is brewing...About to begin...Can't put me finger...On what lies in store...But I feel what's to happen...All happened before."
This was one of the few charming and sentimental films I fell for this year and a great deal has to do with the nostalgic effect that Mary Poppins has on me from my childhood. Yes it is schmaltzy at times and has a manipulative feel good vibe to it while at the same time self promoting itself, but I still was emotionally won over by this great story (and I don't care if most of it was made up, I still loved the film, I don't watch movies for facts). Saving Mr. Banks is smart and upbeat and will have you humming some of the songs from the beloved classic long after the credits have rolled. This is the best marketing Disney has come up with to promote Mary Poppins, and a lot of the success is owed to Emma Thompson for delivering such a powerful performance. Her character could be easily disliked for being so severe and unpleasant to others, but Thompson redeems her by allowing us to see where her pain comes from and how much the novel really meant to her. Tom Hanks is also great as Walt Disney and he would've received more recognition for this film if it weren't for those brilliant last 5 minutes in Captain Phillips that stole all the thunder from his performance here. Supporting roles from Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti, and Jason Schwartzman make this an even more powerful film. Credit also must be given to the screenwriters, Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith, who managed to deliver a charming story while including engaging flashbacks of Travers' past.
Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) promised his daughters that he would bring the beloved Mary Poppins novel to the big screen, but it turned out to be a difficult task considering he has spent the last 20 years trying to convince P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) to obtain the rights of her novel. Convinced that Disney will ruin her beloved book, she refuses to do so. Travers' agent convinces her to travel to California to meet with Disney and try to come up with an agreement considering she is running out of money. Travers spends the next two weeks working with screenwriters (the Sherman brothers played by Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak) at Disney's facility making sure that the screenplay is written exactly how she wants it. Things get complicated as she refuses to compromise to basic things Disney wants to include in the film. The film also presents flashbacks of Travers' childhood growing up in Australia with her father (Colin Farrell) who she absolutely adored but had a drinking problem that eventually ruined him. Her childhood experiences shaped the book and that is why she is so reluctant to let someone else change her story.
Sandra Bullock won an Oscar for The Blind Side which was John Lee Hancock's prior film to this one and Emma Thompson might be a front runner to win for her performance as Travers. She makes this film much better than it actually is because if it wasn't for her Saving Mr. Banks would just be Disney schmaltz. I found it extremely hard not feel emotional about this film and it engaged me completely despite the lack of interest I had for the subject matter. I loved Mary Poppins as a kid, but that didn't mean I was interested in seeing a movie on how it was made. Despite all I've said about it being self promoting and manipulative I thought that what worked best was the integration of the flashbacks that allowed us to understand where Travers was coming from and reminds us how sometimes art is connected personally to the artist's past. That is why perhaps a film speaks to us in different ways because we too as an audience bring in our personal past and integrate it into a film finding a connection that perhaps others never will. That is the beauty of art, it affects us all in different ways.