SAVING MR. BANKS
[Note: In this week’s run-up to the Golden Globes, followed closely by the SAG Awards, I’m dedicating all five days to movie reviews. Since I’ve had the privilege to serve on the Screen Actors Guild Nominating Committee this year, I’ve gotten to see all the important films prior to their releases. I’ve already reviewed a few for them earlier on this season, and now I’m trying to get to most of the rest in the next month or so. At this point, I don’t know which of them are already out in theaters, but I hope I’m publishing these reviews early enough to help my readers with their decisions of which films to see, and which to skip. And unlike most other movie critics, I’m not here to give you my “Intro To Film” analysis; I’m just letting you know how good or bad it is.]
This is one of the few films this season that’s not painful. What a relief! It’s tied with Philomena for my fourth favorite of the year. (In case you missed the last few reviews, it comes in behind The Book Thief, The Wolf of Wall Street, and American Hustle.)
For the few of you who don’t know, Saving Mr. Banks is about the making of the ’60s Disney classic, Mary Poppins. Emma Thompson is brilliant as its author, P.L. Travers. Even though that character is a total pain in the butt to all around her, somehow Emma gives her some charm, which I believe was not the case in real life. (Tape recordings of the real women are played during the end credits, so I would advise against leaving before the lights come up in the theater. I actually advise that for all films all the time, but the rudesters will really be missing something if they depart during the credits of this one.)
Tom Hanks is his usual excellent self as Walt Disney. I didn’t feel this performance was anything special, but Mr. X, (who’s a much better actor than I am,) was blown away by the scene he did with Emma at her house in England near the end, so watch for that one.
I’ve actually known about this film since it’s inception. I’m friendly with the fabulous Richard Sherman, who wrote all the Mary Poppins music with his brother Robert. That duo is perhaps the most prolific songwriting team in Disney history, so I’m especially proud to say that Richard has been my pal for at least two decades. He and his wife Elizabeth are the ones who’ve kept me abreast of the making of Saving Mr. Banks. I was shocked to learn that tiny Jason Schwartzman would be playing my tall pal, but the Shermans were most pleasant about it. Elizabeth was even laughing when she told me of opening the door to the actor who would be playing her husband, and seeing a guy there who was of the same diminutive stature as she. (And I give Jason a lot of credit for making the effort to go visit the living legend he would be portraying; I have a feeling that not every actor does that.)
I love that some of Richard’s anecdotes that I’ve known for years made it onto the screen. Every time I recognized one of them, it gave me an extra warm feeling towards this film.
Outside of the actual writing sessions that were portrayed, possibly even word-for-word since Mrs. Travers had recorded them all, I have a feeling that parts of this film are also made-up, as they seem to be in every “true-life” film that I’ve ever seen. Even though I saw this movie in a screening with the six principal actors doing a Q&A session after, I never got to the bottom of if the chauffeur character was real or not, and if so, if his discourses with Travers were true. But the character does, indeed, add something to the proceedings, either way.
I just realized that when I think of this film, I never think about the authors back-story that’s portrayed in flashbacks throughout. They really add something, and if only partially true, they still explain her behavior as a grown-up. And they made me stand and Colin Farrell, as her father, said the first time ever. He was excellent, and his contribution to the Q&A made him the highlight of the evening for me.
More good news about Saving Mr. Banks is that this is one you can see with the whole family. That’s something I can’t say about many other of this year’s offerings; it possibly can’t be said of even one of the others.
So even if you’re not a Disney fan in general, this is one I highly recommend to you. And if you are a fan, don’t go in expecting to hear Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, except in your head on the way out.