Saving Mr. Banks, written by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith and directed by John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side), tells the story of P.L. Travers, the author of the beloved Mary Poppins children’s novels, who clashed with the production staff at Disney over every aspect of the company’s adaptation of her novel for the big screen. Before we get to my “three more thoughts,” here’s my review for The Eagle:
“Saving Mr. Banks is a testament to the cathartic power of artistic expression. It’s also an appealing showcase for a wide array of talented actors and an opportunity for Disney to pay tribute to its rich and complex history. Though it occasionally lapses into rote sentimentality and overdoses on manipulative melodrama, the film packs a punch with its nuanced depiction of a story that most people are only glancingly familiar with.”
Read the rest of my review for The Eagle here, then keep scrolling for three more thoughts.
1. This movie is a Disney propaganda piece. I didn’t emphasize it enough in the review. With this film, Disney is rewriting its own history. Never mind that P.L. Travers was extremely unsatisfied with the finished product. Never mind that Walt Disney was probably much less of a saint than the presence of Tom Hanks would have you believe. Never mind that the Disney operation is far more calculating and cynical than any of us could ever imagine. I don’t think the movie had a responsibility to portray this story with documentary realism, but a little more acknowledgement of the darkness lying beneath the warm and fuzzy façade might have helped the medicine go down.
2. I wish that the movie had had more time to delve into the creative process. Schwartzman, Novak and Whitford’s performances are all delightful, and the movie seems attuned to the rhythms of creating, scrapping and re-creating the pieces that make up a timeless song. Though the movie portrays Travers as often unreasonable and unwilling to compromise, many of her criticisms are legitimate, though her insistence on extinguishing the color red from every frame might be a bit much. This movie ultimately isn’t much about filmmaking, but I appreciated the glimpses.
3. Hanks is getting the lion’s share of the acclaim for the supporting performances, but Farrell’s accomplishment is equally noteworthy. I didn’t care for the way that director John Lee Hancock haphazardly inserted the flashbacks into the main narrative, at times disrupting the flow and distracting from the more interesting conflicts in the Disney production studios. Farrell’s performance kept me engaged in the flashbacks even when they felt narratively unnecessary and thematically redundant. I believed the charisma he exhibited around his daughters and the pain lying beneath the wall of earnest affection. Hanks acquits himself well as Disney, but Farrell shouldn’t go unnoticed.