John Lee Hancock’s Saving Mr. Banks tells the story of how Mary Poppins came to life on the Disney screen from P.L Travers’ written masterpieces. This is a very simple narrative with an unexpectedly deep and inspirational inflection that has the ability to bring you to a place of both joyous and saddening nostalgia. I did not expect to love this film as much as I did but I think that when one tells a story that explores the unmistakable passion that artists have for their work, like this one, anyone with a burning passion for any sort of creative expression will appreciate it.
Tom Hanks plays the role of Walt Disney and my only complaint is that his character was not at all unpleasant like history says he was. Perhaps because Tom Hanks isn’t capable of seeming unpleasant. Nevertheless, it was clear that Hanks paid great attention to detail from the southern accent to the way he touched his moustache and to how he composed himself that he was very aware of the role he was playing and any time an actor shows this much dedication to a role, it is certainly a treat. His gentle and charismatic demeanour as well as Hanks’ tendency to play roles that always win over the hearts of the audience was sure to win them all again with this film and he certainly won mine. Others may complain about the unrealistic portrayal of such a charismatic and humble Disney but in my opinion, during this time, he was faced with doing everything that he could to win over Travers and get her to sign the rights to him for the film. Therefore it wouldn’t make much sense to see Disney’s flawed personality from the perspective of Travers.
Emma Thompson’s portrayal of Ms. Travers was excellent. She makes us both love and hate her as she tries to hold on to her precious story and memories of the past that weigh her down, struggling to open up and let Disney have the movie adaptation he’s been dreaming of for the past 20 years. Her stubbornness is very amusing although we do not know exactly why she is so opposed to the ways of Disney. Throughout the narrative, we are presented with flashbacks to the dark side of Mary Poppins, the childhood of Travers that inspired the books, which give us insight into why she is the way that she is and we are invited to empathize with her character’s inner battle. These memories and the story that came from them help us to understand the deeper meaning behind Mary Popins and therefore make us inclined to have the upmost respect for Travers and her visions for the film as opposed to only seeing her as stuck-up, closed-minded, Disney hater. Thompson’s character is very complex and she nailed it.
Travers’ life that inspired her to write Mary Poppins is tragic and full of emotion which is what made the making of Saving Mr. Banks so risky. Hancock was able to provide enough light-hearted moments and comedic relief in order to keep the film from getting too dark, too quickly. I should also mention, Colin Farrell’s character which brought the most sensitive and emotional content to Travers’ past, meaning that his job in drawing just the right mixture of emotions of childhood nostalgia and heartache from the audience was crucial to the narrative’s success. If I had to choose one of the three performances by these actors that was most well done, I would say that Farrell was the most unforgettable and deserves the most praise.
Aside from the film giving its audience an insightful view of how both the film and the book came to be, it also presents to us a story of true authorship and artistry. It encourages and reminds those that have a story to tell through whatever medium, to hold on to their vision closely and not let anyone get in the way of their right to creative freedom. What makes a great artist is the passion that drives them to inspire others and this film is a perfect reminder of that. There might be multiple ways of telling a story or simply making a statement, but the important thing is to follow your heart and do it your way, because your way will always be the best way for you as an artist. Both Disney and Travers had very different visions of one story that was personal to them and that is why both of their pieces were masterpieces. Their passion and care that was put into the creation of the story is what gave it life and inspired their readers and viewers. Anyone who has ever wanted to create anything, will sure be touched by Saving Mr. Banks, all thanks to Hancock and his passion to bring his particular vision to life in this particular narrative.