Not everyone is nice, kind or whimsical --- not even authors of wildly popular children's books. P.L. Travers, portrayed beautifully here by Emma Thompson, was not a nice person. It has been well documented. She was fiercely protective of her prime creation, Mary Poppins, and rightly so.
"Saving Mr. Banks" recounts Travers' two week visit to California in 1961 to assist in the production of Walt Disney's (Tom Hanks) adaptation promised to his daughters 20 years earlier. Travers fought him tooth and nail at every turn, but eventually Disney won out, and produced the classic version still revered today.
As the screenplay by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith documents, Travers, named Ginty as a child, suffered an unhappy childhood in Australia with an alcoholic father, Travers Goff (Colin Farrell) and a disturbed mother, Margaret (Ruth Wilson), who was barely able to keep things together for Ginty and her siblings. They were saved by Margaret's sister, Aunt Ellie (Rachel Griffiths), most likely the future model for Mary Poppins.
Thompson is always a force to be reckoned with, and she doesn't back down playing Travers. Strong women should be admired and there is nothing at all wrong depicting Travers as one of them. She may have made Disney and his crew's lives a living hell, as evidenced by the tapes at the end of the film, but that doesn't make her a bad person --- or "Saving Mr. Banks" a bad film.
Opinion: See It Now!
I'd venture to guess that most moviegoers couldn't care less about the premise of "Saving Mr. Banks", which is simply how Disney's 1964 smash hit, "Mary Poppins", almost never made it to the big screen. The production ran into a major roadblock in the form of one Pamela "P.L." Travers, author of the book of the same title.
Portrayed admirably by Emma Thompson in this release, Ms. Travers had zero inclination to have her popular children's novels turned into a Hollywood musical, despite the presence of Julie Andrews in the title role, and also starring a 39-year-old comedian named Dick Van Dyke, whom she didn't want in the film.
Walt Disney, however, had promised his daughters he would make a movie about their favorite book, not knowing it would evolve into an odyssey covering 20 years. Thanks to Thompson and the always dependable Tom Hanks as Disney, "Saving Mr. Banks" is a charming film for the whole family.
Disney makes a last-ditch effort to Travers near the movie's conclusion, providing the heart and soul of the story, as only Hanks can do.. Mostly influenced by her growing financial troubles --- sales of her novel had essentially dried up --- Travers eventually succumbs, but in no small measure to Disney's heartfelt appeal.
Thompson's Travers is relentless as the stubborn scribe who resists all overtures, including those of the Sherman brothers, Robert and Richard (B. J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman) who penned the songs for "Mary Poppins". Even the fictional chauffeur, Ralph (Paul Giamatti), assigned to ferry Travers around, can't completely melt the ice queen's heart, though he comes close.
Directed by John Lee Hancock, whose last movie "The Blind Side" netted a Best Actress Oscar for Sandra Bullock and a Best Picture nomination, manages to induce great performances from his cast. When you see "Saving Mr. Banks" at the cinema, I suggest you stay for the entire closing credits.
Opinion: See It Now!