Saving Mr Banks is the unexpectedly touching story about the inspiration and creation of the Disney classic, Mary Poppins and it’s author P.L. Travers. Reluctant to hand over the rights to Walt Disney, she struggles to part with the true motivation behind her story.
Played by Emma Thompson, Travers is the cold-hearted, humourless writer struggling for money. The year is 1961 when Walt Disney, played by Tom Hanks, decides that he wants to make a film based on Travers’ Mary Poppins. Unfamiliar to the gallingly bubbly atmosphere of LA and Disney studios, Travers spends two weeks with Disney and his production team who are stunned by her strict nature. Criticising every suggestion from the team that Disney-size her tale, Travers seems more and more reluctant to offload Mary Poppins (it’s never just Mary).
Little do the Disney boys working on the movie know Travers’ story is really based on her childhood account. The parallel story in Saving Mr Banks accounts the life of Travers as a child with her real name Helen Goff (Travers is her father’s name which she later takes as her own). Her father, played by Colin Farrell, is an alcoholic bank manager with problems at work – all effecting the relationship with his family including Helen.
This therefore offers the explanation behind Travers’ unwillingness to portray her nanny as a twinkling Disney character, forcing the audience to sympathise with her when we are informed of the true tragedy behind her story.
Thompson is expertly cast as Travers and subsequently delivers a near perfect performance. Her body language and delivery of the difficult, snappy character is well portrayed and yet she manages to balance this with her lesser-known sensitive background, which we sympathise for. In the opposite corner is Hanks playing Disney who also offers a well illustrated account of the flamboyant head, yet the most pleasing aspect of his character is that we perhaps don’t always see him in bright lights wearing a comforting smile – struggling to cope with the difficult Travers throughout. The two however come to a moving conclusion however with Hanks’ Disney eventually getting his way.
Saving Mr Banks is therefore a very powerful, moving, comical and heart warming story, which eventually concludes with a satisfying finale. P.L Travers openly disliked Disney’s Mary Poppins, but regardless, her story behind the creation of the famous nanny is one very well consumed – just like a spoonful of sugar.