Mom and I went to see Saving Mr. Banks the other day. We had planned to go on Christmas Day, but both of us were wore out from the events leading up to Christmas, so we decided to go the day after! This movie is one I was very excited to go see. I LOVE MARY POPPINS!!! She brings back so many wonderful memories for me. I went to see the movie not long after it was first released. It was playing at the movie theater that used to be on Main Street in our small town – sadly, that theater is long gone. My Mom took my best friend, Cathy, and I to see it for my birthday and I was enchanted by it! I had the soundtrack album and played it over and over – I could sing all the songs word for word – and did – a LOT!!! 🙂 The thought of watching a movie about the story of how Walt Disney worked to get the rights to the book and make the movie intrigued and excited me. Not to mention the thought of Tom Hanks playing Walt Disney and Emma Thompson playing the author of that wonderful story…..it was extremely difficult to contain myself and not run out to see it the day it opened – I really wanted to see it at Christmas, but it was all I could do to wait until then! But, I did……
As I mentioned, the movie is the story of how Walt Disney negotiated with P. L. Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins books, to bring her magical character to the big screen. He thought it was the perfect children’s story – loved by his daughters and children around the world – and would make a wonderful movie. He and his writers had visions of the characters flying off the pages of the books to sing and dance their way across the screen – part live action, part animation, but fully magical and wonder-filled! Unfortunately, P. L. Travers did not share that vision! As the story unfolds and Mrs. Travers recalls her childhood through flashback scenes, we find that the stories she wrote were far more personal and tragic than you might think. Her father, Travers Goff – played by Colin Farrell – was a troubled and gravely ill man. She loved him deeply, as he did all he could to make fantasies come to life for her – they shared so many creative moments and she had such fond memories of the fun they had together. But, she also was plagued with memories of an alcoholic father who was an unsuccessful banker that acted inappropriately in civilized society. She lived with the guilt that she snuck alcohol to him on his deathbed in an attempt to bring back the fun, fantasy loving father she knew, but it was likely the final straw in his medical woes. In happier times, they shared stories about her mother’s sister – her Aunt Ellie – as a person they made fun of. When her father was in his decline, Aunt Ellie came with her umbrella with the parrot on the handle and her huge bag of cures to “fix everything”, but, alas, she couldn’t fix her father and he died. At one point, Mrs. Travers said that she “flew in through the window” to fix everything! Her Mary Poppins character was a compilation of the fantasies she shared with her father and her Aunt Ellie, who was thought of as the woman who could “fix everything”. Even though she wrote her stories in the fantasy style she shared with her father, she fought tooth and nail to not allow the writers of the movie to trivialize or change her memories and the intent of her stories. Once Mr. Disney realized how much these characters meant to Mrs. Travers and how they related to her family and her childhood, he was able to convince her to finish her story – to make Mr. Banks (inspired by her father) a hero in her mind, again – to tell the story the way she wanted it told, but in his way of telling it.
It was very sad to think that these wonderful stories of Mary Poppins come from such pain and conflict in a child’s life. You also get a small glimpse of Walt Disney’s childhood when he shares part of his story with Mrs. Travers to show her that he relates to her in some small way. The movie doesn’t come right out and announce a lot of the connections and conflicts – you need to put it together, but it is pretty obvious if you’re paying attention. It also ends before you really know what Mrs. Travers thought of the final result of filming, but you can tell that it does give her some release from the memories that tortured her and I found myself hoping that she was a much happier woman after seeing how it all turned out.
Tom Hanks was incredible as Walt Disney – no surprise there! Equally expected, Emma Thompson was perfectly cast as P. L. Travers. Colin Farrell was a joy to watch as Travers Goff in the flashbacks of Mrs. Travers’ childhood. I also really enjoyed Paul Giamatti as Ralph, the driver that was assigned to transport Mrs. Travers around while she was in Los Angeles – he so annoyed her at first and they became good friends. The rest of the cast were very good, as well, but they were heavily overshadowed by the four characters mentioned previously.
It was a wonderful movie and a very touching story…….I enjoyed it very much and highly recommend it. The spoilers, here, really don’t spoil anything – most can be assumed or are even shown plainly in the movie trailers. Go see it – you won’t regret it! I rate this movie a solid A+!