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Saving Mr. Banks - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Saving Mr. Banks
Directing: C+
Acting: B
Writing: C
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B-
Special Effects: C

The characters of Mary Poppins and Mr. Banks, and even real-life Walt Disney and P.L. Travers, are so iconically uplifting that it seems odd to use them in a tale that is such a bummer. Saving Mr. Banks isn't exactly a tearjerker, and it certainly contains more than its fair share of cuteness, but it still all comes down to Travers and her daddy issues -- which this movie lays on really thick.

Glutted with flashbacks, we see Mrs. Travers (as she prefers to be called) reminisce frequently on her rural Australian childhood with an exhausted mother (Ruth Wilson) and a father (Colin Farrell) who is drinking himself to death. This isn't really the "family movie" the trailer might have you believe.

As a middle-aged, single woman in 1961, Travers is near bankruptcy and finally, after twenty years of courting, accepts Walt Disney's invitation to fly her out to Los Angeles to collaborate on the film Mary Poppins, based on her literary creation. She proceeds to be obstinately contrary on every decision -- which, of course, in the end make it in the movie anyway. So most of the film alternates between Travers saying "No, no, no" to everything she thinks disrespects the spirit of her books, and her memories of a sad childhood.

Travers was reportedly very unhappy with the final product of Mary Poppins. Although the film, as any based on a "true story," clearly takes plenty of creative license, it's a relief to find it still keeps to the spirit of Travers's resistant personality -- she is obstinate to the last. And Disney, for his part, is portrayed as a caring but flawed man, who may be a singular individual but still in many ways a part of the Hollywood machine.

Tom Hanks is merely serviceable as Walt Disney, which is an odd surprise, but Emma Thompson is fantastic as P.L. Travers. She commands attention, even as a character you'd never particularly want to get to know in real life. She stands out in large part because she is surrounded in the film by such mediocrity: no one else either has a memorable part or manages to give a memorable performance. This is not what you'd expect from a movie with Walt Disney himself as a character.

That said, there is some lovely cinematography, even if some of it is weirdly offset by some terrible special effects. This isn't even a special effects movie, but it should be noted: a scene shot from behind a moving train through the Australian outback had me thinking, That doesn't look real. And this movie itself comes from Walt Disney Pictures, which we all know has plenty of money to spruce up their output -- as evidenced by the likes of Mary Poppins itself (and many others).

Saving Mr. Banks doesn't save very much, and really underscores the superiority of the very film it's about. Its only great redeeming value is Emma Thompson, whose screen time is unfortunately cut into far too often by unnecessarily extensive, somber flashbacks. A visit from an aunt (Rachel Griffiths) clearly shows who was Travers's inspiration for Mary Poppins, offering little bits of fun. But "little bits" is the operative phrase here, because this movie just isn't as much fun as you want it to be, or even as much fun as it wants you to think it is.

saving mr banks

Overall: C+
1 comment or Leave a comment
plantmom From: plantmom Date: December 21st, 2013 05:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
We saw this in previews, and we didn't even last all the way through it, we thought it was so awful. Way darker than the trailer would have you believe. Have you seen the review/story in the LATimes? The author gives much of the back story, and pillories the people who put this piece of dreck together, for completely distorting the facts. Bisexual heroine? Inconvenient, let's make her asexual! Longtime lesbian partner and son adopted when heroine was forty? Scandalous - let's erase them completely!
Makes me want to find a truthful biography somewhere. From the sound of it, the real woman was a pistol!
1 comment or Leave a comment