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This true story only barely avoids becoming sloppily sentimental, thanks to a solid cast and a final act that generates honest emotion. Awash with the Disney spirit, the film breaks free of the marketing machine to recount events that are lively and often very funny, but also manage to be sharply moving. It's the kind of crowd-pleaser that deserves to do well both at the box office and in awards ceremonies.
Set in 1961, it's the story of how Walt Disney (Hanks) finally lures PL Travers (Thompson) to Hollywood to woo her into signing over the film rights to Mary Poppins after some 20 years of pestering. She is equally determined to protect her creation, which is very close to her heart. But she agrees to work with the screenwriter (Whitford) and composers (Schwartzman and Novak) as long as she has veto power. Her demands are crazy ("I don't want the colour red anywhere in the movie!"), but everyone tries to win her over. Eventually Walt realises that he needs to find out exactly why Mary Poppins is so important to her. And that the story is more about Mary's affect on the family's father, Mr Banks, than the children.
Indeed, in parallel flashbacks we see Travers' childhood in rural 1906 Australia, where she lives as a young girl (Buckley) with her lively father (Farrell) and shattered mother (Wilson). Her dad's alcoholism is the driving force of these scenes, which feel like a completely separate film intercut with sunny 1960s Hollywood. But they add weight to Thompson's remarkably detailed performance, which is marvellously withering and hilarious, and also subtly emotional. Her interaction with the buoyant Hanks is sharp and jagged, and the film's nicest scenes are between Travers and her driver, sensitively played by Giamatti.
Continue reading: Saving Mr. Banks Review
P.L. Travers was an Australian author who, in the early sixties, went into negotiations with Walt Disney over the rights of her novels surrounding the character Mary Poppins. It was eventually released on the big screen and won five Oscars, though its production was not without its conflicts. Travers' initial aversion to Hollywood didn't help matters, and she was unnerved by the idea that Disney might turn her beloved character into a prancing, dancing, twinkling fairy godmother. However, when Disney began to understand that Mary Poppins' place in the story was less about the children and more about their father - and, in effect, her own father on whom she based him on - the pair began to bond better and Travers was finally willing to unleash her story onto the world.
'Saving Mr. Banks' is the story of how 'Mary Poppins' was put to film in 1964 by Walt Disney, thirty years after P.L. Travers began writing about her. It is about the conflicts between Travers and Disney and Travers own struggles with her personal life when we discover just how true to life the story really was. It has been directed by John Lee Hancock ('Snow White and the Huntsman', 'A Perfect World', 'The Blind Side') and written by Kelly Marcel ('Terra Nova') and Sue Smith ('My Brother Jack', 'Peaches') and it is set to hit UK cinemas on January 17th 2014.
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