Emma Thompson as Pamela P. L. Travers
Tom Hanks as Walt Disney
Colin Farrell as Travers Goff
Ruth Wilson as Margaret Goff
Paul Giamatti as Ralph
Bradley Whitford as Don DaGradi
B. J. Novak as Robert B. Sherman
Jason Schwartzman as Richard M. Sherman
Rachel Griffiths as Aunt Ellie
In theaters December 13
5 out of 5 Stars
Saving Mr. Banks is the story of how Walt Disney wooed author P. L. Travers into giving him the rights to make her book Mary Poppins into a movie.
It seems for twenty years Walt had been trying to get Mrs. Travers to sign over the rights, but she continually refused. At the point where the movie begins, it’s the early 1960s, and she has not written any more Mary Poppins books. Mrs Travers is short on money and is persuaded by her agent to take Mr. Disney up on his offer. She reluctantly agrees to go to the Disney studios to discuss the process. This film focuses on the two weeks Pamela Travers is in LA trying to be won over by Disney and his production staff. Interspersed between the flurry of activity of Disney and his staff trying to gain her approval, we see glimpses of Pamela’s early childhood in Australia. Her father, a young banker who doted on his little girl, was the basis for the character of Mr. Banks in the novel. We see her growing up with a loving father, who was also an alcoholic that later developed tuberculosis. When her father becomes ill, her mother finds it difficult to cope with two young girls and keeping the household together. Her sister Ellie came to help take care of the family. Ellie was the inspiration for the character of Mary Poppins. So when Pamela tells Walt that these characters are like family to her, she really means it.
Emma Thompson is brilliant as P. L. Travers. Pamela Travers totally disliked Walt Disney and everything he stood for, and she was adamant that her book not be glamorized and made frivolous. She hated the idea of making it a musical and definitely hated any thoughts of animation. Emma gives you that very staunch, very British “stiff upper lip” woman that gives it to Disney and his staff with both barrels. What can you say about Tom Hanks? He is the essential everyman in film nowadays, and here he takes his turn at a truly iconic figure. He interprets Walt as a well meaning, yet determined man who, as you can tell, is used to getting what he wants with a will of iron and a drop of Midwestern “charm.”
They are joined in the film by Bradley Whitford (The West Wing, The Cabin In The Woods) as Don DaGrati Co-writer of the Mary Poppins film, Jason Schwartzman (Rushmore, Scott Pilgrim vs The World) and B.J. Novak (Inglorious Basterds) as the Sherman Brothers, Disney’s legendary song writers; Paul Giamatti (Sideways, 12 Years A Slave) as Mrs. Travers’ chauffeur-turned-friend, but the performance of Colin Farrell as Pamela’s father is particularly touching.
This story is a fictionalized account of actual events so some of it has been sanitized, but it does not take away from the overall feeling. If Mary Poppins is one of your favorite movies, Saving Mr. Banks is a must see. It’s utterly delightful and an absolute joy! A great feel good film for the holiday season.
Check out the trailer for “SAVING MR. BANKS” below: