Bringing you honest reviews of recent releases
P.L. Travers wrote a book called Mary Poppins – a creation which has been noticed by Mr Walt Disney. And after being summoned to his Californian headquarters, Mr Disney, Mrs Travers and the book itself are about to produce a groundbreaking feature – and make history in the process…
I will begin this review by saying that Saving Mr. Banks is one of the most endearing, precious movies I have ever had the privilege to watch. It is wonderful, and I shall explain why.
Emma plays P.L. (Pamela) Travers magnificently. In fact, this – for me – was the highlight of her career, the best I’ve ever seen her.
Pamela is outspoken and rather stubborn. She has awfully good posture too. But her winning personality trait is her humour – without meaning to be humorous. Have you ever met one of those stubborn, short-fused people who literally shout their way through human contact, just because its how they deal with things, but you can’t help but laugh – because you’ve never quite met a person like it before?.. this is P.L. Travers.
Emma brings to us the woman responsible for Mary Poppins in an incredibly observant way – her proper English accent and vocabulary, stern facial expressions and abrupt way of waving people off is just fantastic. I’m limited to how I can explain her in words, but my advice would be to indulge in this movie, because never has an aggressive yet admirable woman been such a joy to watch.
About 80% of the auditorium were LOL’ing when I saw it (and the cinema was actually quite full) – and a vision that stands out for me is a man down in the very front row, leaping forward out of his seat in laughter – THERE. That is how funny this film was.
It comes down to two major elements: one-liner’s and delivery – mixed together, these created a bloody funny cocktail for us audience I tell you. I know the film was all about her, but Emma as P.L. Travers carried the entire feature, sealing the deal nicely.
I found myself starting to crave Emma Thompson whenever she wasn’t on screen – simply because of how she made me feel; the comedy, the emotion – which I embraced heartily.
When Mrs Travers is invited to California by Mr Disney, we see her board an aircraft (a situation you’d regard as rather routine and normal) but whilst complaining to the air hostess that someone has placed their bag in the locker above her assigned seat which isn’t right, a lady comes aboard with her baby.. Travers turns and exclaims, “oh dear. Will the child be a nuisance? Its a twelve hour flight” … the mother and (calm, well-behaved) child stare blankly back at her.
She then sits down, fastens her belt and as she leans against the head rest, murmurs, “I hope we crash”
..needless to say, just this situation of boarding an airplane had the audience hooting with laughter. Brilliant.
Whenever I see the name Tom Hanks on a movie poster nowadays (I’m not going to lie), I automatically think, “Oh great. Him again” – Let’s face it, as he gets older he also gets that little bit more boring.. Character-wise, always the gruff-voiced middle aged dude, dedicated to his career – who never seems to be involved in a love story – just a story about.. well.. his career. And when Captain Phillips came along, I’d proper gone off Hanks.
So thank fuck he was cast as Walt Disney. For once, his gruff voice (which he can’t shift, no matter what nationality character he plays) was suited perfectly to the role. The image of him standing there in a smart suit, wide smile on his face and open arms is warming, and a welcome relief from Hanks’s previous roles.
Tom brings to the movie what Santa Claus brings to Christmas eve for millions of children; a cheek-warming atmosphere of fun, but wise at the same time, and delivers a serious message amidst the joy.
Toward the end of the film, we see Disney sit Travers down and give her an important, influencing talk about his past and her future. And the actor’s classic gruff voice has never been better suited – because as he enlightens her with a chunk of his past, Hanks manages to pull the audience in with perfect husky, compassionate storytelling – which would be lovely on Christmas eve around a log fire. For once, I was won over.
The movie continues as Pamela arrives at Walt’s studios (the scene when she enters her hotel room and is surrounded by a gang of Disney character fluffy toys is bloody funny) and we watch as a creation unfolds.
Its pin-boards and pianos galore, as the author, Disney himself and his two production artists edit script, create songs for the movie and sketch costume ideas for each character of Mary Poppins. Emma again extracts constant laugh-out-loud moments as her hasty character “NO! No, no, no, no….NO”‘s her way through the process, orders the songwriters to “un-make up” certain lyrics, and very sternly sends the tea lady out of the rehearsal room when the woman wheels a Mickey mouse-shaped jelly on a trolley into the area.
But its not all song and dance. The movie blends between 1907 (Travers’ childhood) and 1961 (the creation of Poppins), with Pamela remembering her past – her growing up. We get a glimpse into her difficult childhood, of her alcohlic father (Colin Farrell) and long-suffering mother – which turns from happy family to emotional endings.
P.L. Travers (“Mrs! If you don’t mind”) is a tough nut to crack, as well as a tough act to follow – and much of the movie is centred around the three Disney men, as they endeavour to impress the woman and win her trust – and this is even before they’ve secured the Mary Poppins contract!
I haven’t seen her for bloody ages, but Griffiths makes a return as Aunt Ellie; a relative who acts as a breath of fresh air, who swoops in (carpet bag in left hand, umbrella in right – A-HEM!) when Pamela’s father Travers becomes life-threatingly sick.
Rachel suited the character splendidly (costume and hair were brilliant) and performed like nothing I’ve seen from her before. Very stern and proper – great. Oh, and is it just me, or is the actress starting to look older in her face?..
Disney has to try hard to impress Travers, as well as stay on her good side. But adapting to her personality was probably the trickiest part of producing the film. Surprisingly. Because at any moment, Disney could have told such an abrupt woman to “piss off back to England” – but he knew the script in her hand could be worth millions..
This is the element I hated; she could be a millionaire after the success of Mary Poppins – if she turned away from Disney just because of the fact she disliked him using animation, then by God.. don’t bite the hand that feeds you!!
If someone approached me and offered to make a film from a book I wrote, I’d have to put all temper and strictness to one side and actually listen – because that producer could be buying me a new house or something! Bloody woman.
..but as the movie progresses, Travers softens. The first sign of this is when Richard and Robert Sherman (composers) belt out a wonderful song on their piano in front of her.. and her foot starts tapping on the floor..
FINALLY! She LIKES something they created!
As the credits roll, we get a glimpse of photographs which screen the actual people: P.L. Travers, Walt Disney, Sherman brothers, etc.
But the bonus cookie is the actual voice recording (Travers demanded to tape all conversations between her and the production team) of the famous woman and Disney.. I very nearly missed this, as it is played well after the photos which display in the credits. But as I stood and listened to the old pair – Disney offering, Travers ordering – it was rather nice.
In a way, the audience are let in on P.L. Travers secrets when watching this movie; you get a slice of the production process, how and why the characters came about, as well as the journey which glues the entire lot together.
Its a biopic, and a documentary.
Overall, this movie is practically perfect – in every way. Its observant portrayal of a woman who made history is hilarious, as well as emotional. Raw and honest, it engulfs its audience in a sense of sadness and success. A journey of a stubborn woman who simply needs to let go of her angst, in order to step up and be brilliant – in order to receive the recognition she deserves.
Saving Mr. Banks had me in stitches, and had me in tears. I would recommend it to anyone, especially fans of theatre, British humour, and of course Mary Poppins herself.