In this clash of artistic dispositions the combatants make time for tea.
Hello moviegoers, Walt Disney’s (Hanks) twenty year courtship of Australian author Helen Lyndon Goff who wrote under the name P.L. Travers (Thompson) for the film writes to her beloved children’s novel Mary Poppins, has led to a rehearsal studio on the grounds of Disney Studios Burbank, California 1961.
Walt Disney is played by Tom Hanks with whimsy and vigor and Emma Thompson imbues P.L. Travers with a chiding personality. Disney has Travers stay at the Beverly Hills Hotel, inundates her with the imagery of Disney land the greatest place on earth, and gives her every consideration including final say on the adaptation of Mary Poppins.
‘Saving Mr. Banks’ (3 sweet potatoes out of four) Stars: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti, Annie Rose Buckley, Jason Schwartzman; Director: John Lee Hancock; Genre; Drama; Rated PG-13; Runtime: 125 minutes; Opens Friday, December 13th.
The movie which is directed by John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side) starts in 1906 with the narration of a poem that leads us into a playful scene between Travers Goff (played by Colin Farrell) and his daughter Ginty (played nicely by Annie Rose Buckley). She lies pensive in a grass field where hers dad interrupts her pretending as though he’s failed to remember her name. The scene well establishes the close bond between father and daughter and also establishes Travers as the major influence of Ginty’s childhood.
Farrell does a fine job playing Travers Goff as a sympathetic figure who loves his family but he, along with his young family and associates, are at the mercy of his alcoholism.
Hancock shifts between Travers’ childhood in Queensland Australia and her time at Disney Studios in a nonintrusive way anchoring the story of Poppins and the Banks family to P.L. Travers like Mickey Mouse is tied to Walt Disney. As Walt himself puts it, “That mouse is family”. And with Travers, financial difficulties notwithstanding, the idea of letting anyone tamper With Mary Poppins is burdensome.
The two strong-willed personalities butt heads on one aspect of the production that is routed in old memories. Disney requests that Mr. Banks wears a mustache and Travers insists that he doesn’t as Banks, the patriarch of the Banks family, is inspired by her clean-shaven dad.
The contrasts between Travers and Walt, however, don’t stop there. Walt is on a first name basis with his staff where P.L. Travers insists on formality. Disney thinks one song is iconic, but Travers in her collaborating with the Sherman brothers (B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman) who wrote the music for Mary Poppins, thinks the production lacks gravitas.
In time Travers warms to the Sherman brothers who’s musical notes help give the overall movie the right feel, but the final straw for her comes when she learns of Disney’s intention to include animation, which she detests, in the production. Travers would leave Disney Studios and return to her home in London without a deal.
A knock at her door calls Travers’ attention, and she answers to be greeted by Walt Disney. They don’t call him Walt for nothing. Over a cup of tea – milk first – Walt shares a heartfelt story from his youth that align commonalities between them. The monologue is brilliantly delivered by Hanks and paints a portrait of a though but determined childhood, and unyielding love for his father – a story to which Travers can relate.
Travers would eventually let the production go forward and the rest as they say is history. I give ‘Saving Mr. Banks’ 3 sweet potatoes out of four.
This has been your resident moviegoer and I will see you after the movies at moviegoersview.com.