Getting older doesn’t necessarily mean things are better. Sure, you can pretty much do whatever you want, wear whatever you want, and eat whatever you want, but sometimes the blissful ignorance that comes with youth is appealing. Life is full of awkward moments that come from the knowledge you gain while growing up. Such as the moment when you find out what your parents had to do to create you, realizing how expensive everything is now that you have to pay for it yourself, and rewatching your favorite animated Disney movies only to realize how racist and sexist they really were. Get ready to have another childhood idea changed, but in the most delightful way. Saving Mr Banks gives us the backstory behind the making of Mary Poppins, and it’s much less cheerful than you might think.
Before Mary Poppins the film existed, many children only knew the tale of Mary Poppins through a series of children books by Pamela Lyndon Travers. What you didn’t know was just how hard it was to turn Mary Poppins into a Disney made film. This (over)dramatized story of the struggle to turn Mary Poppins into a film shows us what happened behind the scenes between author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) and the Disney production crew consisting of lyricist brothers Richard (Jason Schwartzman) & Robert (B.J. Novak) Sherman, screen writer Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford), and even Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) himself.
After constantly being hounded by the Disney company, P.L. Travers decides to give Walt Disney a chance to see what he would do with the Mary Poppins before she signs over the rights to him. Several stipulations she set for ahead of time were: Nothing animated, completely live action, no musical numbers, no sugar-coating, and no made up words. P.L. is intent preserving the sternness and reality of Mary Poppins, to the death if she has to, for reasons that are not quite clear to us. Flashbacks throughout the film tell us about P.L.’s childhood in Australia, growing up with caring, yet irresponsibly alcoholic father Robert (Colin Farrell), and the ultimate strain it put on her family. To P.L., Mary Poppins has a greater symbolism (and maybe even a sort of escapism) that she is willing to stubbornly preserve. We know the outcome, which is famed children’s film Mary Poppins, made with everything P.L. was originally against. The story is more a look into the woman behind Mary Poppins, and the journey that lead her to finally be able to let go of someone she cares so much about, whether that be Mary Poppins or another person entirely.
‘Tis the Oscar Season, and that means films are made with the sole intent taking us on a roller coaster ride of emotions. Saving Mr. Banks has sentiment in spades, and humor a plenty, especially when it comes to P.L. Travers’ interactions with every human being she comes across, even her driver Ralph (Paul Giamatti), who seems to be the only American she likes. The acting in this film is great, especially thanks to Emma Thompson’s wit and scowl. Even Tom Hanks give life to Walt Disney in a Technicolor way I never knew Walt Disney could be seen. It should also be noted that though this film was produced by Disney, and they have added their “Disney Touch” to the story by making sure it was cheerier, and probably less “based on a true story”. Regardless of how faithful they were to the truth, the story they presented will forever change the way you view Mary Poppins, especially once you realize the story behind the famous song “Let’s Go Fly A Kite”.
Although Saving Mr. Banks was all live action, the great performances and characters animated the story and brought it to life in a way you’d never expect it to. The story behind the film and the music are just the surface of something deeper, waiting to be explored and resolved in only the way Disney could deliver.
RATING: ★★★★★★★★(8/10 stars)
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