Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Saving Mr. Banks is a delight

By James Colt Harrison

Who would have thought an interesting and amusing story could be made about Walt Disney’s (played by Tom Hanks) quest to buy the movie rights to Mary Poppins? That’s exactly director John Lee Hancock has done with an apparently true story of the Hollywood mogul’s long quest to charm author P.L. Travers ( magnificently played by Emma Thompson) into relinquishing her character Poppins to be made into a movie.

Ms Travers is no pushover, and her protectiveness about Poppins may relate back to her own childhood and her experiences with her father ( essayed by a handsome Colin Farrell). Layers of the story are built into the script by using effective flashbacks into Travers own bleak background. Out of all that unpleasantness, Mary Poppins—the epitome of cheerfulness---turns out it could have been a reflection of Travers herself as a girl.

Hanks is a twinkly-eyed Disney, roaming his own studio in Burbank and surveying his kingdom. Of course, Disney could not be portrayed as an ogre trying to get his prize, so Hanks turns on his irresistible charm with a trowel and wins the audiences over as well. We almost root for his success, but we never know if he will actually get the  film rights from what is essentially an impossible woman. The director wisely used the actual studio buildings to anchor Disney in his own world, as much as Travers is mentally in her own environment at all times. Both are strong willed and both aren’t about to cave in easily. Disney pursued the author for 20 years and very nearly did not get the movie rights.

Travers was not a push-over, and actress Thompson plays her with steely determination in order to control all aspects of any film made with her beloved character. Scriptwriters Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith have cleverly given Thompson most of the good lines, and much of the film is quite funny. Travers/Thompson tosses off bon-mots, scathing criticisms, and hilarious insults at every turn. These witticisms don’t seem to deter Disney, and he takes it with great aplomb. Most likely he was not used to having people say NO! to him but he had not been confronted by the strong-willed Miss from Australia. Ms. Thompson is such a consummate actress that it all looks so easy. We know that acting is not easy and it is especially not easy when you are playing a character with such an original personality. In saying this about her, we feel she should get a well-deserved Oscar® nomination this season as Best Actress.

The film is one of the best-crafted films of the year and is a delightful work of entertainment. After all, if the Disney Studios can’t entertain us, who can?

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Anonymous said...

Nice review James. Though it may not all be true, it still is a tribute to Travers, as well artists from all over the world who stick to their word, their vision and what they have created.

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