Saturday, January 11, 2014
Film Review: SAVING MR. BANKS
We went to see SAVING MR. BANKS, starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, over the holiday break. I expected to like it, and I did. It was a very good story, nicely told with the use of flashbacks to give us insight into the character of P. L. Travers, the author of MARY POPPINS. I didn't go to the film believing that it was a documentary, but I have to admit that I wasn't terribly aware of what was fact and what was fiction as I watched.
Did that affect my enjoyment of the film? Not one bit. I thought most everything about it was good. I don't expect academy award nominations for the actors, but I wouldn't be surprised if some of them get them. The performances were good and believable, especially Thompson and Paul Giametti as the apparently fictional limo driver who chauffeurs Mrs. Travers around Los Angeles. Hanks was good as Walt Disney himself, but trying to play a character who so many, including me, have seen either in video footage or on TV back in the old days has to be difficult. I never quite got over the feeling that I was watching Hanks play Disney instead of watching Walt Disney himself, if that makes sense.
I highly recommend it to anyone, not just Disney buffs and Disney fans. It's a very good film that deserves accolades.
It's come to my attention that there is raging debate on Facebook and in the blogosphere over the inaccuracies and liberties taken within the story and the visual presentation. Most of the critics seem to like the film on the surface but are disturbed that people will see it and think it an accurate historical depiction of the events surrounding the making of MARY POPPINS.
I can see that many of the specifics are not accurate, and also I can see from checking the three biographies of Mr. Disney that I own that there is disagreement on the facts surrounding the relationship between Disney and Travers. I noted that Jeff Kurtti, a noted Disney historian, presented a letter that Travers wrote to Disney thanking him for the film and praising it. But I have read in too many places that Travers didn't like certain parts of the films, including the songs, and that her criticism often was held back until she was talking to someone who revealed that they didn't like Walt Disney. I don't know.
I think that in general, the film gives an accurate representation of the general mood surrounding the relationships between Disney and Travers and the production team of MARY POPPINS, but uses a lot of artistic license to make it a good story. Much like Walt didn't want to make Rudyard Kipling's JUNGLE BOOK, but Walt Disney's JUNGLE BOOK, Disney wanted first and foremost to make a film that would work well on the big screen and not necessarily be faithful to every little detail. And they succeeded in doing that.
That's my take. I'll probably buy it on DVD. I already bought a biography of P.L. Travers and I'll probably make it a point to watch THE BOYS when I get a chance because of this movie and the discussions that I've read.
Please take a look at my book DOING DISNEY, available for Amazon Kindle at $2.99. Thanks!