Saving Mr. Banks

Saving Mr. Banks
Starring Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson and Colin Farrell
Directed by John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side)
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements including some unsettling images

    Before Walt Disney (Hanks) could make the legendary film Mary Poppins, he had to coax its creator, P.L. Travers (Thompson) to sell him the rights.  The process was an arduous one as she hated the very thought of her books ending up with Disney, but through persistence and a strong sense of vision, Walt was able to convince her, leaving us with one his greatest and most treasured films. 

    I’ve always wanted to see a biopic of one of my biggest heroes, but since that isn’t in the works yet, I’ll gladly settle for this lovely little film about a very unusual story that took place at Disney’s studio years before I was born.  From the opening moments of the film where a solo piano performs the Oscar-winning song Chim Chim Cher-ee to the closing moments with the same hauntingly beautiful motif, the film sets itself apart as a classic. 

    It helps that the story is really interesting.  Apparently P.L. Travers was insanely difficult to work with and Thompson makes you really feel the creative team’s pain.  But at the same time the film goes in a very different direction as they simultaneously show Travers’s own troubled upbringing as  she watches her beloved father (Farrell) drink himself to death.  It’s an all around touching story and while you know the ultimate ending, that doesn’t make it any less fantastic. 

    In addition to Thompson’s incredible performance, the film boasts some other terrific acting including Hanks as Disney, Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak as the legendary Sherman Brothers and a rather unexpected beautiful performance by Paul Giamatti as Disney’s limo driver that befriends Travers. 

    My only real beef with the film is that in the flashback sequences they make a todo about what we can only assume was the inspiration for Mary Poppins in a woman known to the family as Aunt Ellie, played by Rachel Griffiths, that comes to live with the family when the father takes ill.  Honestly, it’s a confusing role that I’m not sure is well enough written to be understood completely.

    But what I really wanted to see was Disney come to life, and here it happened in a big way that I am very pleased with.  And honestly, I can’t think of a better holiday film that you’ll be able to enjoy with your families.  A