It’s tough for a non-movie review blog to write a movie review. But I love movies and I’ll take any good excuse I can to actually get out of the house and get immersed in a film at the theater. And this movie, THIS MOVIE, was one I’ve been waiting for months to see.
But this is a difficult film for me to review because it was just so complex, on so many levels.
Here’s a quick synopsis for those who haven’t heard of the film:
Walt Disney spent years pursuing the rights to create a movie based on the book, Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers. He was persistent in wanting to make the movie not only because he loved the story but because he wanted to fulfill a promise he made to his daughters. Mrs. Travers reluctantly agrees to work with Disney’s team on the film but refuses to sign away the rights during pre-production, basically holding the creative team hostage to her whims.
Long story short, she eventually signs away the rights and the film gets made. But you knew that. Because most of us grew up with Mary Poppins as part of our childhood. We know the film, we know the songs, and we all loved Mary Poppins.
Saving Mr. Banks doesn’t just take you behind the scenes as to how Walt Disney and P. L. Travers eventually struck a chord. This movie takes you into the childhood of Mrs. Travers and deep into her head where we really understand why this fictional character, Mary Poppins, is such an important and protected part of her life.
Let me state what I think is obvious. If you haven’t ever seen Mary Poppins, you’ve got some homework to do. You need to watch it and then go see it. If you don’t, you’ll miss a lot of the subtle humor and inside jokes. And you’ll be able to follow the storyline but you won’t really get it.
If you have seen Mary Poppins and didn’t love it, this movie might not be for you. And finally, if you’ve seen Mary Poppins but it’s been so many years that you can’t really remember if you liked it or not, go see this movie. You’ve probably forgotten that you loved it as a kid and this film will remind you.
(Side note: This is NOT a movie to take your kids to. They won’t be offended. They’ll simply be bored. It’s an adult movie. Enjoy a night out.)
I walked out of the theater trying to take it all in. From the sweeping landscape of Australia where Mrs. Travers grew up to the exquisitely recreated scenes of Walt Disney’s life in the 1960s, I was full of nostalgia and a whole mixture of emotions. As I was walking out, I was asked what I thought of the film. The best I could come up with was, “I liked it.”
I liked it? Boy, I sure am good with them words.
It’s because it was a movie that stayed with me. When I see a good movie, it usually has to sit with me for a day before I can really coherently come up with what I thought of it. That’s a good sign because it means it got the wheels turning in my head.
The next day, I was singing the songs from the film and just replaying some of the scenes in my mind and mostly just marveling over the amazing cast.
Emma Thompson as P. L. Travers, a middle-aged Australian born English writer of children’s books. She wasn’t pleasant and yet we were sympathetic and amused. And God love Emma for facing the big screen with that awful 1960s hair.
Tom Hanks as Walt Disney, the American icon who has never been portrayed on screen before. When I saw this trailer months ago, I said to myself, Tom Hanks as Walt Disney? OF COURSE.
B. J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman as the Sherman brothers who wrote the music and lyrics to the original Mary Poppins film. Mrs. Travers, incidentally, was vehemently opposed to it being a musical. Funny, charming, and touching at just the right times.
Colin Farrell as Travers Goff, the real life father of P. L. Travers. Generally I’m not one to like dual storylines switching from past to present but they were woven so well. He was desperately torn between following his heart and following his head. Plus, he’s pretty cute.
Paul Giamatti as Ralph, the driver who took Mrs. Travers wherever she needed to go. He had a relatively small role but he played the hell out of it. He needs some sort of award.
Really, everyone was stellar. But I think the biggest thrill for me in this film was feeling like I got a glimpse into the life of Walt Disney – who he was, what he was like to work with, and how he fought for what he believed in.
This has definitely been my favorite movie of 2013. If you’ve seen it or plan to see it, I’d love to hear what you think.
In the meantime, here’s a little vignette about the music aspect of the film. You’ll thank me tomorrow when you’re still singing “Let’s Go Fly A Kite.”