Saving Mr. Banks

Emma Thompson as the difficult-to-please P.L. Travers

Emma Thompson as the difficult-to-please P.L. Travers

(Spoiler Alert)

Ooh, Emma Thompson is so annoying in this movie. She is so stubborn and closed-minded, unable to see things in any way but her way. She keeps finding fault in the ideas being proposed to her by Tom Hanks and his staff, refusing this, refusing that. If she does not give script approval for the screenplay to the Mary Poppins books she wrote, the movie cannot be made. She does not like those now-lovable and memorable songs and scenes in the movie, such as Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, and Dick van Dyke dancing with the animated penguins. She is derisive of animation.

Screenshot 2014-04-22 22.44.46

She is also very rude when she corrects those who call her by any name other than “Mrs. Travers.” Oh, that’s right. She is playing Mrs. Travers, not Emma Thompson. Well, it needed this scene to remind me that Emma Thompson is portraying a character, as is Tom Hanks. You see, she is just so famous, just as Tom Hanks is, that it takes some time for it to sink in that I am watching Mrs. Pamela Travers and Mr. Walt Disney.

By the time I realize that Emma Thompson is just acting, it hits me: boy, she is so good! She has me shivering with indignation over her inflexibility, and scowling at her on screen. Furthermore, she is also being deceptive. Deep down inside, she really is not interested in seeing her book made into a movie.  So she justifies her nitpicking as the need to be true to her book, and contrasts it  to the propensity of Disney to…well, “Disney-fy” stories.

Immediately, I was reminded of The Little Mermaid. I love it now, after having viewed it oh-so-many times. But the first time I saw it, I was very bothered that they changed the ending. “She dies and turns to foam!” I complained. The same goes for The Hunchback of Notre Dame, where the ending saw me in a huff. “Phoebus was just using Esmeralda! He marries somebody else who is in his social class! Esmeralda and Quasimodo die in the end!” Thus, in a small way, I guess I could sympathize with Mrs. Travers. But not much, because I haven’t read the Mary Poppins books, and have no idea how much the Disney group tweaked it.

Tom Hanks as Walt Disney

Tom Hanks as Walt Disney

This Disney group of tweakers are the screenwriter, the composer, and the lyricist. I am impressed by the patience and the politeness they display in light of Mrs. Travers’s criticisms and bullishness. Even the ever-positive chauffeur, charmingly played by Paul Giamatti, was kind in spite of Mrs. Travers’s transgressions. And yet, after a while, I thought that it’s not a stretch for me to believe that they are that patient and polite. I associate Disney Studios with feel-good productions, and it can only come from a happy place–the heart of Walt Disney. For the attitude of the leader filters down to his employees, and from there, to their products and services. You can’t create happy if you don’t have happy to begin with. And you can’t fake it.

Paul Giamatti as the chauffer of Mrs. Travers

Paul Giamatti as the chauffer of Mrs. Travers

But the nastiness of Pamela Travers begins to grind on me. It reaches a point where I want to stop the movie. I feel like I couldn’t take any more of her negativity. At last, in the next few scenes, there is progress, and the tone lifts. Now it becomes a typical feel-good Disney story. I find my head swaying along to the beats, my lips smiling at the happiness on screen, and my mood lightening up significantly. Ah, that’s more like it.

And then–oh no! Unfortunately, Mrs. Travers, who did not want this movie deal in the first place, gets mightily offended by the animated penguin scene, calls off the deal, and goes back home to London. How will Mr. Disney save the day? We all know that he did. We saw the Mary Poppins movie.

Dick van Dyke with animated penguins

Dick van Dyke with animated penguins

He flies to London and talks to her in her home. He asks her to trust them with her story, “Because that’s what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope…again…and again…and again.”

That little speech captures why storytellers can move their readers and their audience. How true, that they can restore hope. And the way Tom Hanks delivers that line, with soft-spoken sincerity, is utter perfection. If only for this scene, I love this movie. (Yes, I kept replaying that scene, and I kept getting choked up each time). But then, this scene would not have had any impact without the context of the struggle that preceded it. So I am guilty of exaggeration when I wrote that I love the movie if only for that scene. And yes, that is how Walt Disney won her over.

Colin Farrell is in it, too, and his performance was lavishly praised. He plays Pamela’s father in flashback sequences of her childhood.

Colin Farrel as Pamela's father, Travers Goff, and the young Pamela.

Colin Farrel as Pamela’s father, Travers Goff, and the young Pamela.

I am not surprised that this is a critically acclaimed film. I would classify it as light drama and light comedy. And I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to see a good story unfold, with flawless acting that engages the emotions.

Rating: Five out of five ♥♥♥♥♥

Post Script
This article is dedicated to all the bloggers on WordPress. You are all storytellers who use words, photographs, and music to tell your stories. Stories that inspire. That instill hope. That capture the imagination. And you do it again… and again… and again.







Filed under Movie Reviews

6 responses to “Saving Mr. Banks

  1. I finally got to see the film Fay, and I would almost entirely agree with your comments, especially the scene with Walt in London, at Mrs. Travers’ home. It made the whole film. Without the ending would have fallen flat. The film was delightful, and it had a hint of darkness, but in true Disney fashion, it did not push it too far down the rabbit hole.

    To make this film too dark, which they could have considering who Mrs. Travers was, and her behavior post release of the film (in real life she bashed the film refused to ever speak to Disney again…hypocrisy to say the least, as she was finally able to make money and do whatever else she did afterwards), would not have worked as well (and I have no problem with dark movies)…

    What Walt said to her is why I love telling stories, why I make films, and why I will continue to do so. It’s inside you, it’s part of you, and you cannot do anything else but…

    Thank you for posting this review, excited to see more of them!


    • You are right, Joel. The film has a hint of darkness, and Mrs. Travers was not really friendly with Walt in real life–and Walt’s speech at the end is what makes a Disney film… a Disney film.

      I agree with you about the compulsion to tell our story: you with films, me with words.


  2. I was finally able to watch it! I love it! And yeah, she was really annoying but somehow it makes me laugh. Haha. I also almost cried while she was watching the movie as she was remembering her father. It’s sad if she never really became friendly with Walt after. Have you seen the closing credits where the recording of Travers and the scriptwriters was playing? If it’s the real Pamela, then Emma Thompson is really really good coz she sounded like her…


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