Watched BluRay June 1, 2014
My husband and I watched Saving Mr. Banks last Sunday evening. We both enjoyed the movie, especially the acting. I took the ‘story’ with a grain of salt, realizing early on that some liberties must have been taken with the facts to create a more enjoyable experience for the audience. I confirmed this in my spare time this week and will relate some of those findings later on in this review.
Savings Mr. Banks jumps back and forth between present day (circa early 1960s London and Los Angeles) and early turn-of-the-century Australia. I came into this movie knowing absolutely nothing about the author and creator of Mary Poppins. Strangely, I seemed to have skipped that set of children’s books growing up. I dived into things like The Little House on the Prairie and every Nancy Drew novel my mother’s library contained at a young age, but soon go sucked into the reading wormhole that is science fiction and fantasy (at around the age of 12 or 13). As is my preference, I like to watch a film like this with no preconceptions about the characters and their real-life stories. I had of course seen the Disney film Mary Poppins many times, both as a child and as an adult. I can’t claim to seeing it when it was released in 1964, since I was born that same year.
The movie builds the backstory concurrently with the finished package that is the author, which provides many comedic opportunities for both Tom Hanks, as Walt Disney, and Emma Thompson, as P.L. “Mrs.” Travers. Probably much more comedy than what actually occurred during those two weeks at Disney Studios. If you’re a ‘just the facts’ type of person, take a gander at the Historical Accuracy of the Wikipedia article for this movie.
Somewhere in the middle of the film, a bit before it became completely obvious to the audience, I had the epiphany concerning the title. Titles always intrigue me and it’s a puzzle I like to solve before I reach the credits. The more time the film spends in the author’s childhood, the sooner you will realize why she is the way she is and why she desperately must save Mr. Banks.
That being said, the saddest bit I learned after the film came from this chilling epitaph quoted from the author’s grandchildren:
Travers died in London on 23 April 1996 at the age of 96. According to her grandchildren, Travers “died loving no one and with no one loving her.”
The footnote attached to the quote above lead me to an interview in the New York Times with the principal actors. Here’s the relevant excerpt:
Emma, you did quite a bit of research on Travers. Was she really that cold?
Thompson Last night, when we were doing a Q. and A., Kelly [Marcel] said [Travers’s] grandchildren had said she’d died not loving anyone and nobody loving her. At which point, Tom burst into song.
You sang? Tom, what did you sing?
Tom Hanks “Let’s Go Fly a Kite.” I needed to Disney-fy up the sad ending. [Laughs.]
Travers insisted on taping her sessions with the Shermans, so there were hours of recordings available.
Hanks Thirty nine hours of recordings. That must have been magnificent.
Emma, what did you learn about her by listening to her voice?
Thompson They were the biggest tell, the tapes. You can hear the distress, the tension and the resistance, just the purposeful sabotage in her voice. It’s fascinating.
How much of that distress came from being alone in a foreign country and outnumbered by Disney staffers?
Thompson I think she sounded like that most of the time. We can’t forget that she made absolutely no effort whatsoever to go out with them, to socialize with them. She wouldn’t even eat with them in the commissary here when they were working together. She was horrible. You can’t sugarcoat it in any way.
Hanks She hated the script that she’d already read.
I’m correcting my earlier lack of never having read any of P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins books. I’ve requested an audiobook edition of the first one from my favorite local library. After I finish reading that book, then I’ll have to re-watch Diseny’s Mary Poppins. Then I’ll know for myself if I agree with the author on her stance against Disney’s creative license with her books.
I have fond memories of Mary Poppins, especially Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. Many of the songs still reverberate in my memory as vividly as the first time I heard them. I would have to agree with the author, though, that the animation sequence was not my favorite part of the adapted film. It’s always been the music for me.
I recommend Saving Mr. Banks as an entertaining rose-colored view into the behind the scenes making of an iconic family movie classic. A spoonful of sugar goes a long way towards easing nasty medicine and painful memories.