Thursday, 4 August 2016

Saving Mr. Banks (5 Stars)

This is one of the most delightful films made in recent years. It's hard to recommend on the basis of the plot alone. What I mean is, the plot doesn't sound interesting. Nobody would be convinced to buy it merely by reading the text on the back of the DVD box. If you like the film -- as I do -- you need to force it on your friends, tell them that they must watch it, and they won't be disappointed.

The film's strength is in the quality of the acting. Tom Hanks was born to play Walt Disney. Not only does he look similar, he projects an outgoing jovial style that immediately wins over everyone around him. Emma Thompson puts on the performance of a lifetime as Pamela Travers, the grumpy old lady who wrote the Mary Poppins books. It's amazing how an author can be totally different to the image portrayed by her books. Not least are Colin Farrell and the child actress Annie Rose Buckley, the affectionate father and daughter living in poor circumstances in Australia.

The story is told in two threads interwoven through the film, the present day in Los Angeles (1961) and Pamela's childhood in Australia (1906). As Walt Disney struggles to understand the author's stubbornness to accept any changes to her story we're shown scenes from her early life that offer clues. As we see, the Mary Poppins story is an idealised auto-biography in which things succeeded that failed in real life.

This is one of those films that makes me cry when I watch it. It will have the same effect on you, unless you're totally cold-hearted.

Pamela Travers (1924).

One significant but understandable deviation from the true story is Pamela Travers' reaction to "Mary Poppins" when it was released. "Saving Mr. Banks" shows her emotionally enjoying it at the premiere. In actual fact she hated the film and remained angry with Walt Disney until her death in 1996.

Pamela Travis in 1964 with Julie Andrews and Walt Disney.

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