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Saving Mr. Banks

Who did not see Mary Poppins when they were a kid? Okay I actually first saw it a week ago, but that is beside the point. Point is for the vast majority of people growing up Mary Poppins was a childhood icon and a beloved memory. This is a movie that seeks those people as a target audience. Saving Mr. Banks is a movie that focuses on the creation of the Mary Poppins movie in the 60’s. It is not a tale of how the movie was made behind the scenes of filming, and more focuses on the creative process. In particular the compromise needed between two people with a creative vision.

The film focuses on two people. The it focuses primarily on author PL Travers played by the always delightful Emma Thompson. Emma plays Miss Travers as someone very stern, very proper, and more than a little ridged. PL Travers as the film opens is short on funds. Royalties for her books have dried up, and she has not written any new books as of late. As of this time she needs money, and is at the point where she is in a situation where she might actually have to sign over film rights in order to keep her home.

Secondly is naturally Walt Disney played by the ever charismatic Tom Hanks. Tom Hanks is one of those actors it is very hard to hate. You may hate some of his movies, some of his characters, his politics, whatever. But hard to find someone who flat out HATES Tom Hanks period. Hanks brings that certain good natured appeal to the role of Walt Disney, helping bring to life the man who created Mickey Mouse and constructed the happiest place on Earth. Walt is shown to be not only the nicest guy in show biz, but a man of determination since he has been hounding for the rights to make a Mary Poppins film adaptation for 20 years. But this is not a greedy cash grab by any sorts. Walt’s daughters were big fans of the Mary Poppins books, and Walt made a promise to the kids to bring Mary Poppins to life on screen. In addition he understands the opposite side of the coin, one where the creator cherishes their creation, and does not want to see it ruined or taken away. So it is up to Walt and his creative team of Don DaGradi (co script writer) and the musical duo the Sherman Brothers to try and warm Miss Travers up to the idea of putting her character Mary Poppins into a Disney style musical. And anyone who has seen the movie Mary Poppins knows that involves dancing penguins, lots of made up words, and Dick Van Dyke with a lousy Cockney accent.

The film is primarily set in the 1960’s in LA where Miss Travers deals with Walt and company. But as the film actually opens and continues to revisit a young PL Travers (birth name Helen Goff) in Australia. Her father Travers Goff (played very well by Colin Farrell) is a failed banker trying one last time to get his life in line. They move from Queensland to Allora so he can try one last time to take a job running a bank. Travers Goff is a very loving and doting father. In addition he is a dreamer, and passes on a sense of childlike whimsy and imagination onto his young daughters. Mr. Goff however is also under loads of stress at work, and he suffers from alcoholism. The longer Miss Travers stays in LA, the more she is visited by memories of her past and of her father; memories that include lots of love and whimsy, but sadly also lots of pain and anguish.

The majority of the film however is still set in 1961 in Los Angeles. And you get to watch Miss Travers… blossom if you will. She starts off unyielding and stubborn but slowly begins to open up. From being very stern against the ideas of the Sherman Brothers, to slowly being won over. All starting with the inclusion of a rewritten ending to the film with "Let's Go Fly a Kite". My favorite scene in the film is at the end when Miss Travers is at the film’s premier in LA (do I really need to say spoilers?), and you watch her reactions to the film as it is being shown on screen. You she her disapproval when she sees Dick Van Dyke dancing with cartoon penguins, but then you see her burst into tears during Mr Bank’s long walk to the bank when you know he is about to lose his job. It not only shows the power that film has on the viewer, but also shows Miss Travers connection to her original source material.

And yes you know how the movie will end, but much like a Disney theme park you really are coming to see this movie for the ride. You want to know how this movie got made, even if this is a dramatization of the actual events. As such you know they are going to take liberties, add characters, and certain events will be in the movie that did not happen in reality. If you go in knowing this however, you will have a very good time. This is especially a good film for those who love the movie Mary Poppins. Whether you loved the film growing up or the film managed to warm your cynical heart when you first saw it last week at the ripe age of 28 (*ahem*). Either way to those who love the Disney classic, you will enjoy Saving Mr. Banks and come to understand the meaning of the title by the end of the film. Defiantly worth a watch.