Published on December 30th, 2013 | by Allan Brown4
Saving Mr Banks Review
Movie Review: Saving Mr Banks (2013)
Running Time: 125 mins
Director: John Lee Hancock
Writers: Kelly Marcel, Sue Smith
Cast: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Ruth Wilson, Colin Farrell, Jason Schwartzman, Paul Giamatti, B.J. Novak, Bradley Whitford
Plot: Author P. L. Travers reflects on her difficult childhood while meeting with filmmaker Walt Disney during production for her classic novel, Mary Poppins.
Director John Lee Hancock presents a battle of wits between P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) and the corporate might of Walt Disney (Tom Hanks), in an attempt to bring the obstinate and stubborn author’s Mary Poppins to the screen.
The narrative focuses on the 1961 tug of war between Walt Disney’s insatiable desire to acquire the rights to adapt Marry Poppins into a film, and Travers’ reluctance to give it. However, with the royalties of her book now all but dry and her own home in financial jeopardy, Travers’ agent insists she at least meets with Walt Disney at his California studios.
After much to-and-fro, Travers eventually and reluctantly succumbs to Walt’s wishes. However, she has one condition; that she will have full control of the page-to-screen adaptation in pre-production. This is the story that drives not only the main narrative but triggers a series of childhood flashback sequences, that intend to give us a deeper insight and understanding to the Authors prickly demeanour and troubled youth, opening the possibility that her deep-seated adoration for her father; Travers Goff (Colin Farrell) is perhaps what lies at the heart of her magical literary masterpiece.
Saving Mr Banks is one of those films that’s bumbling narrative has not only been saved but elevated, given gravitas and direction by mesmerizing and dynamically stunning performances. While Emma Thompson is aided in a wonderful turn by the ever impressive Tom Hanks, it is she in particular that acts as the pillar of acting prowess that supports the entire film.
She not only showcases her characters prickly presence and sharp tongued manner with ease (which is simply joyous to watch), but offers us with a range of subtleties and a suppressed emotion that present her character in a more tender and delicate light. These touching moments towards the final act between Walt and Travers are truly captivating, honest and deeply emotional as the weight of her past begins to reveal itself as our two stories merge.
While the film sails high on the acting front, it does stumble in a few other areas as previously mentioned. John Lee Hancock has essentially chose to tell two stories, one in the present during the pre-production of Marry Poppins, whilst the other stumbles around P L Travers’ childhood. While this method has worked countless times in past, I feel the transition between the two stories that are told here simultaneously, is at times uneasy, awkward and jarring, slowing the pace of the immediate/present story to a near halt, as we are ripped out of one time period and thrown into the other, away from the main story we are invested in, again and again.
Despite these small reservations, Saving Mr Banks offers enough subtlety and allure in an already iconic story to be one of this year’s cinematic triumphs.
Summary: Despite its structure and pacing issues, John Lee Hancock and Disney present a warm and tender tale of hope that offers one of the finest performances of 2013.