A job well done

Saving Mr Banks
English (U/A) ****
Cast: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell
Director: John Lee Hancock

If eyes can be described as a window to one’s soul, then a piece of fiction can provide a profound insight into the psyche of its writer.

Children and adults who have watched Disney’s Mary Poppins may not think very much of the face behind the story’s writer – P L Travers (Emma Thompson).

Saving Mr Banks is a movie behind Pamela Lyndon Travers, Mary Poppins’s creator, and how she was torn between saving the character from being tarnished and selling out to Walt Disney (Tom Hanks).

For 20 years, Disney was repeatedly rejected by a stubborn Travers, who was heavily pursued for the movie rights to her story. But when desperate times called for desperate measures, a money-starved Travers considers co-writing the potential movie script.

And so the no-nonsense author travels to America and enters the Disney studios with the firm notion that she will be unimpressed.

Travers attempts to work with scriptwriters she deems incompetent, while having several flashbacks of the adventures she had with her father Travers Goff (Colin Farrell). Scenes from her memory give a viewer a refreshing and sometimes terrifying perspective to the birth of the character Mary Poppins.

Poppins becomes more than a mere nanny who “flew in through the window with her umbrella” and disappeared with the “changing winds”. Saving Mr Banks reveals her as a very important character to P L Travers, who considered the fictional nanny as family.

This movie has overcome all stereotypes the production house has been attributed to, making it uncharacteristically unpredictable.

The humour involves making fun of the traditional Disney movie style that incorporates excessively euphoric songs and unrealistic life lessons. What is noteworthy is that the movie seems portrayed Walt’s character with a minimal bias. Walt Disney has been called many things; most recently a gender bigot by Meryl Streep.

In Saving Mr Banks it is not difficult to view Walt Disney as a manipulative empire-driven man, who coerced P L Travers into signing the papers he desperately desired, making the movie highly convincing as a “biographical” film.

However, it is debatable if the movie is truly based on P L Travers’s life. Emma Thompson does a remarkable job playing the eccentric author’s character, putting even Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins to shame.

It is beyond doubt that fans of Mary Poppins should watch this movie. Revisit your old DVD collection and marvel at Julie Andrews in the 1964 movie; then visit the movies and be in awe.

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