Film Review: Saving Mr. Banks
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★★★★Call me heartless, but a film has never quite managed to reduce me to tears. For all the pain and emotions that Hollywood’s characters endure, I generally manage to stay strong and hold back the waterworks. Let the records show; however, that Saving Mr. Banks brought me pretty close. What a truly phenomenal film. Centred on the 1964 Walt Disney Studios film Mary Poppins we gain an insight into the relationship between producer Walt Disney, and author P.L. Travers. It’s a rusty one, to say the least. We see the clash of two incredibly strong personalities and we learn of how neither party back down, thereby finding themselves embroiled in a twenty-year long battle. Disney wants the rights to produce Mary Poppins, whereas Travers consistently refuses, despite strong opposition from her own agent. Walt made a promise to his two daughters when they were children, stating that he would one day make Mary Poppins into a motion picture. A promise, as Walt says himself, should never be broken – and that’s the story we follow. Travers despised Disney’s sentimentality, favouring more “dark and realistic” stories. She wasn’t impressed by his cartoons or musicals, which meant she was going to have quite a few issues with the production of her beloved Mary Poppins. In the end, Travers received $100,000 up-front, a 5% cut and editing privileges. Saving Mr. Banks features a whole range of “laugh out loud” moments – most of them taking place in the “Rehearsal Room”. This was the room where Travers (Emma Thompson) sat down with co-writer Don DeGradi (Bradley Whitford), and the Sherman brothers (Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak) to work on the movie together. Their interactions are just hilarious, seeing Travers desperately trying to battle the “magic of Disney” that is so ingrained in these men (and it’s also the place where one of the most moving scenes takes place – the dance between DeGradi and Travers). For the large part, the three enthusiastic men, who happen to pull off some damn good voices and dance moves, find themselves under fire from Travers, who seems upset by the whole script. “Mary Poppins and the Bankses are family to me,” she says. After the creation of Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney can understand this better than anyone. He tries taking a gentler approach to Travers and, as it turns out, the characters are based on her very own childhood. We gain an insight into Travers’ real-life alcoholic father and suicidal mother, and we watch her childhood slowly evaporate as she has more responsibility forced upon her at a young age. In the original story, Mr Banks is saved by Mary Poppins; he’s able to regain his happiness and “fly a kite”.
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