Saving Mr. Banks Reviews
For twenty years, P.L. Travers denied Walt Disney the right to turn her famous "Mary Poppins" into a film, but when money became tight and no other options were viable, she relented, though not without severe conditions. There was to be no music, no make-believe words, no animation, not even the color red. Fifty years later, the movie "Saving Mr. Banks" shows us how this fantasy-filled classic came to be with music, the color red and made up words.
P.L. Traverse (Emma Thompson) is an uptight pessimist who refuses to relinquish full custody of the movie rights to Walt Disney (Tom Hanks). She arrives in California complaining that it smells of "chlorine and sweat," throws pears into the hotel pool and loses it when Disney insists Mr. Banks will have a mustache. But as the movie shifts back and forth between 1961 Los Angeles and 1906 Australia, we gain insight into the circumstances that created this harsh woman and why she is so protective of her beloved Mr. Banks.
Born under the name Helen Lyndon Goff, Travers was raised by a worn out mother (Ruth Wilson) and a father, Travers Goff (Colin Farrell), who suffered from chronic alcoholism. At the age of 5, her family relocated to a remote farmhouse in small town Allora after her father was demoted from bank manager to a bank clerk. Due to the lack of both social opportunities and financial resources, her father continually championed the use of imagination. In one scene we are shown young Helen and her father chasing her "foul Aunt Ellie" (a chicken) around the yard, and it is clear that Helen had an unbridled admiration for her father. Then in the heartbreaking scene of her father's death, filled with the color red and pears strewn across the floor, we understand why these objects are so enmeshed with her painful memories and why they provoke such strong emotions.
Throughout the movie we see Travers shoot down idea after idea that writer Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford) and Sherman brothers Richard and Robert (Jason Schwartzman and B. J. Novak) present. "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" was preposterous and simply wouldn't do. Disney, desperate to soften the callused heart of the inflexible writer, visits her in England after she had changed her mind and returned home. He shares his own heart-wrenching stories with Travers about his hard and abusive father, and the film begins to change directions when we realize that both of these individuals were trying to shape Mr. Banks into their ideal father figures.
Viewers may disapprove of this "disneyfied" representation that is not 100% accurate because it is true that Walt Disney and the Disney Corporation are portrayed through rose-colored glasses and may be interpreted as self-promoting in the film. Though Travers was depicted as a changed woman by the end of the film, dancing and singing with the Sherman brothers and crying tears of delight at the end of the premier, she in fact was displeased with the film, especially the animation, and was crying tears of betrayal, not joy. But despite these undisclosed truths, the movie "Saving Mr. Banks" brings an understanding about the development of the characters in "Mary Poppins," insight into the lives of both P. L. Travers and Walt Disney, and provides an enthralling and emotional journey for the audience.