Can I just start this review saying I absolutely adore movies about movies? From 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain to more recent editions like 2011’s My Week With Marilyn and 2012’s Hitchcock, what film critic can resist the charms of a movie within a movie?
Walt Disney Pictures’ newest film Saving Mr. Banks tells the untold story of how Disney’s Mary Poppins made it to the big screen. “Mary Poppins” author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) lives a simple and quiet life in London. When her agent convinces her to take a meeting with Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) in Los Angeles to discuss the film adaptation of her precious novel Travers agrees, but is heavily reserved at the idea.
When she makes it to Los Angeles, the Disney musical and production team (Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzman, and B.J. Novak) quickly realize that the making of the film isn’t going to be as easy as they had hoped, especially with the matriculate Travers heading the operation.
Travers is particular about her novel and wants absolutely no animation, limited musical numbers and is adamant about the color red not appearing in the picture. Walt Disney does his best to persuade Travers with his Mickey Mouse charms, but soon finds that the author may be immovable on her story. Obviously, if you’ve seen the 1964 film starring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke, you know how everything turns out.
Every single actor is fantastic in the film. From our leading lady Emma Thompson to the surprising endearing performance by supporting actor Colin Farrell and the short but sweet screen time from limo driver Paul Giamatti who loves to refer to P. L. Travers as only “Mrs.”
Emma Thompson is fantastic as ever as our leading actress. She gives the “Mary Poppins” creator so much spunk and personality, yet applies an underlying melancholic tone, which makes me want to give her a hug, even though I know she would despise it. It’s surprising that the author of one of the most beloved Disney films of all time would be so desperate for a friend and a paycheck, since that’s the main reason she turned to Walt Disney to make the movie. Heaven knows she probably wouldn’t have if she were rolling in dough.
And of course I have to talk about the best actor working today, Mr. Tom Hanks! If there’s ever been an actor to play the happiest man in the world, it is Tom Hanks and he does so wonderfully. As soon as he walks on screen, an immediate smile spreads across my face and wasn’t that the same for people who saw Walt Disney?
The film is picturesquely shot by John Schwartzman (2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man) and it feels like we are watching a live-action classic Disney film with a twist of that spicy personality of Mrs. P. L. Travers. The flashback scenes featuring a child P. L. Travers, known as Ginty (played by Annie Rose Buckley) in her youth, and her family in the beautiful fields of Australia are just breathtaking. These scenes are expertly embedded into the present storyline so that the audience can see the juxtaposition of how Travers is processing the entire production.
There will be no surprise come Oscar season when Emma Thompson is nominated for Best Actress and hopefully the film will score a Best Picture nom as well. If it were up to me, I’d give Tom Hanks a Supporting Actor nom, but with the category being so tight this year, I hope he makes it.
Saving Mr. Banks is that family friendly holiday film you are searching for this year. It’s for people who loved movies about movies, adore Disney films and grew up watching Mary Poppins on their VHS players as a child. Emma Thompson does wonders as P.L. Travers and Tom Hanks could play Walt Disney over and over again and I would never tire of it.
- Rated: PG-13
- Comedy, Drama
- Release Date: 12/13/2013
- Directed by: John Lee Hancock
- Starring: Annie Rose Buckley, B.J. Novak, Bradley Whitford, Colin Fa, Emma Thompson, Jason Schwartzman, Paul Giamatti, Rachel Griffiths, Ruth Wilson, Tom Hanks
- Written by: Kelly Marcel, Sue Smith
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures