"I don't understand why you're mad – Rita never gets mad when we're out in public together and I get all the attention!"Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) greets his adoring public while Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) looks on unimpressed in a scene from director John Lee Hancock's based on true events drama SAVING MR. BANKSCredit © 2013 Disney. All Rights Reserved. 


KEY CAST MEMBERS: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, BJ Novak, Jason Schwartzman, Bradley Whitford, Colin Farrell, Ruth Wilson, Annie Rose Buckley, Paul Giamatti, Melanie Paxson, Rachel Griffiths, Kathy Baker and Andy McPhee

WRITER(S): Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith (screenplay)

DIRECTOR(S): John Lee Hancock

60 SECOND PLOT SYNOPSIS (OR AS CLOSE TO IT AS ONE CAN TRY TO MAKE): Based on true events, Saving Mr. Banks tells the story of P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), the author behind the beloved book Mary Poppins and the efforts Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) put in to turn it into a movie. But while that may seem like a simple turn of events, that reality – or at least as the movie illustrates – could not be further from the truth.

Sarcastic and very protective of her "family" of characters, Travers has little desire to turn her book into a film, so much so that it takes financial necessity to end her 20 year freeze-out of Disney and finaly visit California. And while Disney is certain his production team (B.J. Novak, Jason Schwartzman and Bradley Whitford, respectively) and sweet secretary Dolly (Melanie Paxson) can make movie magic out of her work, Travers turns out to be overbearing, unpleasant and generally impossible to with which to work. In fact, it seems the only American Travers has any accord with is her driver Ralph (Paul Giamatti), although she does find him much chattier than she prefers.

But what neither Disney nor his employees know, however, is the backstory that has produced the creative, strong but emotionally hurting adult before them. That story is told in early 20th Century Australia, where "Ginty" (Annie Rose Buckley) as she is known grows up under the eye of her father Travers Goff (Colin Farrell), a bank manager who enjoys to play just as much (if not more) than his daughter. While Travers enjoys living carefree, he has one bad habit that worries his wife Margaret (Ruth Wilson, not to be confused with Hanks' wife Rita Wilson) to no end ...

So how does this all come together to create one of the Disney Co.'s most beloved feature films? You'll have to see this one to find out ...

WHO WILL LIKE THIS FILM THE MOST?: Tom Hanks fans, Emma Thompson fans, Mary Poppins enthusiasts, people who enjoy films from the Mad Men era, Paul Giamatti fans, enthusiasts of family-friendly entertainment

WHO WON'T LIKE THIS FILM?: People who prefer documentaries to Disney-ized historical looks, those not interested in anything Disney 


WHAT'S GOOD (OR BAD) ABOUT IT?: Saving Mr. Banks is essentially, at its core, a Disney movie ABOUT HOW THE COMPANY USED TO – AND STILL USES THE SAME BLUEPRINT – DISNEY MOVIES. This is not necessarily a bad thing; if it were, it would be highly doubtful that (1) the company would be as successful as it is (see Frozen for the most recent proof of that fact) and (2) a movie like Banks would exist in the first place. Thus, while the film doesn't really have any surprises per se, it does deliver what long-standing fans of Disney/family films would come to expect and enjoy: Family-friendly entertainment that features a cast of solid actors telling you a story with a beginning, a middle and an end that all wraps up nicely so that you leave the theater with a smile on your face.

Thompson delivers a performance with much more emotional depth than one might expect given the nature of the film and its over-the-top, sitcom-y first half. But Thompson shows her acting prowess throughout the film, serving as both Disney's antagonist and the protagonist still dealing with daddy issues originating from her youth. Sharp as a tack with proper English charm and sarcasm, Thompson brings Travers to life as a complex woman whose creation has become her salvation, hence the reason she is so afraid to let an outsider have her. It's not just a character she's created, it's the ideal situation which she wishes her life existed in. This point doesn't come across without Thompson's skillful performance, however, and while it won't likely receive award consideration, it definitely deserves recognition and appreciation. Without it, Travers would become a one-note character

Likewise, Hanks does a great job as Disney, bringing out every smile, every handshake and every Father Knows Best-like piece of wisdom that represents the man who would become an entertainment icon. Of course, Hanks' performance would be for naught if there was no humanity to his performance; in playing up Disney's positive, optimistic Ned Flanders-like outlook to Thompson's more savage, easily annoyed Homer Simpson (yes, the analogy works – sorry non-Simpsons fans), he delivers the ever-positive balance to Thompson's crank, giving the duo a nice Odd Couple-style effect.

Yes, Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzman and Paxson serve to do the same in smaller doses, but the battle of the ever-presence nice guy vs. the cantankerous old bat is what puts Hanks and Thompson center stage, with Giamatti's character serving as the neutral figure that helps to slowly chip away at Travers' icy resolve.

Surprisingly, the film's "b story" (it is as equally important in telling of the story of the conflict between Travers and Disney in trying to make her book into a film, but work with me here) is given an equal amount of attention under director John Lee Hancock's care. That results in the best performance Colin Farrell has put forth in eons, exhibiting an emotional range and depth that's been missing from his work for quite some time. As Goff, we see a man who wishes the best for his family and encourages his daughter's creativity, only to ultimately be done in by his own childlike nature and inability to consistently behave as an adult. While the story adds the emotional component that underscores nearly every Disney release, it does so with respect to its subject, its characters and most importantly, the audience. Annie Rose Buckley delivers a commendable performance as the young Travers, but the b-story is all on Farrell, who comes through with a solid performance that makes its eventual end no less easy to accept despite the proverbial writing being on the wall.

And if a heartwarming, entertaining story behind one of the most beloved films of its era is what you're looking for this holiday season, you'll likely find Saving Mr. Banks to be a gift.  



Popular Posts