Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) has been wooing Pamela Travers (Emma Thompson) for 20 years, trying to get the rights to her book on Mary Poppins. Walt plans to make it into a movie after promising his daughters he would.
Mrs. Travers, short on money after not having written another book since, reluctantly travels from London to Los Angeles to meet with Walt. Mrs. Travers is an uptight woman with no intention of letting Walt turn her beloved character into one of his outlandish cartoons.
When Mrs. Travers gets to LA, she works with Don Dagradi (Bradley Whitford), who will help write the screenplay, and Robert (B.J. Novak) and Richard Sherman (Jason Schwartzman), who are working on the music. Mrs. Travers demands that all of their sessions be taped, so she can document her wishes. She is very particular about how her book will be treated, and makes ridiculous demands about every aspect of the script.
Walt, eager to keep his promise to his girls, and get the film made, gives in to Mrs. Travers demands while she is in town. Just as Mrs. Travers is giving in to the idea of her book being made into a Disney film, she finds something in the script that she simply cannot abide.
Throughout the film, there are flashbacks to Ginty (Annie Rose Buckley) and her family. Ginty loves her father (Colin Farrell), despite his self-destructive behavior. Her mother (Ruth Wilson) tries to encourage their relationship as much as she can, while watching her husband slowly destroy the family.
To be honest, after seeing the trailer, I wasn’t sure what to make of Saving Mr. Banks. It looked interesting, but how good would it be? Of course, we obviously know how the story ends, as Mary Poppins became probably one of Disney’s most iconic films.
Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson are magnificent. That is no surprise. Two actors of this caliber are sure to bring almost any movie up a few levels. Hanks shows that Walt Disney is not only a dreamer, but a very determined man. Emma Thompson represents what was most likely one of the biggest obstacles he ever faced. The chemistry between the two is amazing, as you would expect.
Paul Giamatti, playing a good guy for once, plays Mrs. Travers driver. He adds a touch of levity to the film. I’d like to see him in more of these types of roles. Bradley Whitford, B.J. Novak, and Jason Schwartzman, as the creative team behind the film are great, as well. Their characters are based off of the actual people involved in the process. One can only imagine what they had to go through during Mrs. Travers 2 week visit. The cast really sells it.
What really surprised me was the flashback scenes. I wasn’t sure how I would like Colin Farrell in this movie. It’s not how I’m used to seeing him. He was fantastic. You could feel the love he had for Ginty and the turmoil his character went through to support his family as best he could. Annie Rose Buckley as Ginty really shows some potential. Her performance is on par with the rest of the A-list cast. Shocking, given her age. I wouldn’t be surprised to see anyone in the cast taking home awards for their performance.
The story is almost unbelievable. I’m sure there were some creative liberties taken with the screenplay, but given that the sessions were actually recorded, I believe that a great deal of it is accurate.
While the focus of the film is on making Mary Poppins into the movie we all know and love, what is most interesting is the story behind it. The story told in the flashbacks. It completely changes the story and meaning of the movie. I have a new respect for it now.
One note, even though this is a Disney film about the making of a great Disney film, it isn’t for kids. Not that there is anything offensive about it, there’s just nothing in it for the kids. It is more for us adults who grew up with Mary Poppins.
Make sure you stay through the credits. There aren’t any post-credit scenes, but you are treated to photos of the group from when they were working on the film, as well as part of the actual recordings from Mrs. Travers sessions. You’ll leave the theater with a tear in your eye and a desire to watch Mary Poppins with a new outlook.