“Winds in the east, mist coming in. Like somethin’ is brewin’ and ‘bout to begin.”
As a run of the mill Hollywood biopic, it’s a delight to watch; but for those who worship at the alters of Poppins and Disney, it’s quite a revelation.
Directed by John Lee Hancock, the man who won over audiences with the charming 2009 film, ‘The Blind Side’, ‘Saving Mr Banks’ tells of the tumultuous collaboration between Mary Poppins’ author, P.L. Travers, and one Mr Walt Disney; and the struggle of bringing the fictional Nanny to the silver screen.
The heart of the movie is set in a thriving 1960’s Burbank, California, where the already celebrated Mr Disney (Tom Hanks) has flown Mrs Travers (Emma Thompson) over to Los Angeles for one last persuasive attempt to bring the much loved Mary Poppins to life. The backbone of the story is provided by flashbacks of Travers’ childhood in rural Australia, focusing on her relationship with her father, Travers Goff (Colin Farrell), a charming yet flawed bank manager.
As the story progresses, Travers becomes increasingly difficult with the production team; at one point humorously denying the use of the colour red, just to get her way. And in the same progression, we become increasingly aware that Mr Banks is in fact, based on her own father. In one scene, Travers storms out of the studio after claiming Mr Banks is becoming ‘too cruel’. A new ending is swiftly written, and the swirling and giddy notes that belt out of Richard and Robert Sherman’s (played brilliantly by Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak) piano end up as the beloved ‘Let’s Go Fly A Kite’. And in that rapturous, foot tapping moment of approval, her Mr Banks is saved.
It’s not the only scene that is so sweetly sugar-coated in Disney nostalgia, which is seemingly delivered by the bucket load. From the enchanting notes of ‘Chim Chim-cheree’ at the film’s opening to the image of Walt at the gates of his very own brainchild is enough to make even the tiniest of Disney fans feel their soul fill up with happiness. But then again, you wouldn’t expect anything less from a film made for Disney, about Disney.
As if there wasn’t enough to marvel at, the cast really is the cherry on top of the spoonful of sugar. Thompson’s effortless turn as the uncompromising, stern and very straight-laced P.L. Travers is nothing short of exquisite. And Hanks manages to execute Disney’s exuberance with such charm and subtlety that you almost find yourself being persuaded into signing your life away to him. The supporting cast is just as fantastic; with Bradley Whitford as Disney writer Don DaGradi, Colin Farrell, Rachel Griffiths and Paul Giamatti, who gives a brilliant performance as Travers’ charming personal driver.
In the end, the film turns out to be an emotionally stirring and cathartic experience for not only Travers, but the audience as well. (It’s more than likely that the reason for her tears were due to utter distain compared to ours of adoration and awe. She never did like those dancing penguins.) If you, like me, spent your entire childhood sat in front of your television day after day after day watching Mary Poppins, then this film will fall nothing short of being practically perfect in every way. And when the credits roll… you’ll be tapping your foot while reaching for that box of tissues.