The film, ‘Mary Poppins’, has been a friend to many a child since it was first released way back in 1964.
Dick Van Dyke’s utterly awful English accent, aside, ‘Mary Poppins’ was and still is a cracking family movie and the fact the Brunswick Moviebowl have decided to screen it in the run up to Christmas just goes to show the pulling power the movie still has.
‘Saving Mr. Banks’ is not a sequel to ‘Mary Poppins’. The film is very much based in the real world but it tells the remarkable story of how dream weaver extraordinaire, Walt Disney, convinced Mary Poppins creator, P.L. Travers to agree to a film adapation of her novel.
Emma Thompson plays P.L. Travers and despite her guarded and very stiff upper lip appearance, all the while there’s a vulnerability in the background.
Travers’ childhood was extremely unpleasant and as she reflects upon it throughout the film the mystery of where the inspiration for Mary Poppins came from is revealed to brilliant effect.
If you’re expecting to see plenty of Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke then you’ll be disappointed.
Instead, what the film is, is something much more interesting.
At the centre of this movie is a fantastic acting performance.
Emma Thompson abounds in grace and style. She’s so utterly believable as author Travers that I laughed and cried with her the whole way through the film.
An integral part of the story is Travers’ relationship with her father, who is played by Colin Farrell (‘Tigerland’ and ‘In Bruges’).
In the past, had someone floated to me the idea of Farrell playing Emma Thompson’s father I would’ve suggested they speak to a doctor but it works brilliantly in ‘Saving Mr. Banks’.
Obviously the two actors never appear on screen together but never once is the love and affection felt between father and daughter brought into question. Second only to Thompson, Farrell is brilliant and exudes the talent he promised ten years ago.
The story of E.L. Travers’ encounter with Walt Disney is told parallel to the memories she has of growing up in Australia with her alcoholic father and mind weary mother.
Director John Lee Hancock never once threatens to over cook either of the two stories and although they are happening decades and worlds apart they never once feel fanciful, sentimental or artificial.
The most enjoyable parts of the film take place when Travers arrives at Walt Disney’s studios in Los Angeles and insists on being as involved as possible in the writing of the script for the film adaptation of her book.
B.J. Novak (‘Inglorious Basterds’) and Jason Schwartzman (‘Rushmore’) play music composers Robert and Richard Sherman. The screen time they share with Thompson is packed full of frustration, frivolity and compassion. The scene when the Sherman brothers let Travers hear the now famous ‘Let’s Go Fly A Kite’ song is so smile invoking that it should come with some sort of warning.
Tom Hanks (‘Captain Phillips’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan’) plays Walt Disney and as you would expect he is excellent. Hanks’ Disney is so caring that his caring affection for Travers throughout the film is infectious and like Disney I wanted to make sure everything worked out for her in the end.
It’s a fantastic story and it’s really well told and at its core is a tremendous performance from Thompson. Do not leave until the credits have finished rolling - you have been warned!
‘Saving Mr. Banks’ is currently screening at the Brunswick Moviebowl; for full cinema listings visit www.brunswickmoviebowl.com or telephone 02871 371 999.
VERDICT: 5/5 - ‘Saving Mr. Banks’ is not just a feel good movie - it will break your heart.
Emma Thompson is outstanding as eccentric British author P.L Travers and Colin Farrell is excellent too.
It’s a great story and it’s really well told. The way in which the two stories run parallel to one another is impressive and some the scenes where the songs from Mary Poppins are created are an absolute treat.