Saving Mr. Banks

I watched Saving Mr. Banks during the week of Christmas. It was a highly anticipated film for Disnerds like myself. I was excited for a few things:

  • The first on-screen portrayal of Walt Disney ever
  • By none other than Tom Hanks
  • 50th anniversary of Mary Poppins
  • Great cast

I was a little concerned that this movie would be really biased. PL Travers infamously hated what Disney did with Mary Poppins and, when the musical version was made, refused to allow anyone who was involved with the Disney film contribute AND refused to have any Americans, only British contributors. Disney did a few things that went directly against what she wanted and some things that were rude, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that they actually included many of these things in the film.

Needless to say, this was an extraordinarily touching movie, especially if you really loved Mary Poppins and/or if you’re interested in Walt Disney the man himself. I started tearing up at the very beginning when they played the vintage Walt Disney Pictures opening screen.

I want to say this before I forget to mention it, but Colin Farrell was fantastic in his role as Travers Goff. He was such an endearing character, the father who loved his daughter so much, so kind, bringing so much magic into her life. The promos really focused on Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, and for good reason, but I really wish that Colin Farrell got some more credit for the amazing job that he did. I loved his portrayal of his character, and I became really emotionally attached to Travers Goff, which I knew was dangerous since I already knew going into he film that he was an alcoholic. So of course, his character made me cry.

I was surprised by how much I liked Paul Giamatti‘s character in this movie. He played Ralph, Pamela Travers’s chauffeur while she was in California. I don’t love the roles that he usually plays, but I really liked him here. Again, very endearing. You kind of understand why Pamela is annoyed by him, but you want to like him, too. The friendship that blossoms between the two of them is beautiful and, of course, made me cry.

Emma Thompson played Pamela Travers, um… perfectly. She was absolutely wonderful. She played this very difficult person in a way that made you still like her. Even as she put Mickey Mouse in a corner (the horror!) you still loved her and kind of shrugged and nodded like, “Yeah that’s understandable if you don’t love Mickey, sure”. She is so great and the emotional ride you go on with Pamela Travers, who doesn’t show too much emotion throughout the film, made me — you guessed it! — cry a lot.

It would be rude for me to talk about this film without mentioning Tom Hanks, who played the first portrayal of Walter Elias Disney in a mainstream film. He plays the Disney that, of course, Disney the company wants you see: he’s charming and there’s a magical air about him. He sees the world differently. He is a man shaped by a cruel childhood, and he found solace in a mouse, who helped him prevent other children from having quite as cruel childhoods. Tom was a great choice for this role and he played it so well. (Yes, I cried at Tom Hanks also.)

I was rather surprised with the casting choice of BJ Novak and Jason Schwartzman as the Sherman brothers, but I really liked them in their roles. I’m so used to seeing them in comedies so this was refreshing to see. They stepped up and did well in their roles.

I’ll wrap up this post with a bulleted list of things I loved about this film. There are some spoilers, so please be forewarned. Another spoiler alert: a lot of these things made me cry.

I highly recommend this film. It was beautiful and, yes, made me cry tears of joy and sorrow and nostalgia and oh there were so many feelings. A must-see for any fan of Mary Poppins, Walt Disney, and Disney films.

  • The scene where they show Pamela Travers the number “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” was one of the most sentimental and emotional scenes in this film. You will probably cry whenever you hear the song now. (Note: I do. <sniffle>)
  • All of the scenes from Pamela Travers’s childhood as Helen Goff in Australia were gorgeous. The cinematography was spactacular and I loved the use of rich golds throughout those scenes.
  • The attempted suicide scene by Helen’s mother was done well. You kind of don’t quite realize what’s happening until you do, and it’s terrible. Helen manages to snap her mother out of the daze that led to this almost-mistake and you breathe this huge sigh of relief that she didn’t have to watch her mother commit suicide. Powerful scene.
  • I cried a lot when Travers Goff passed away. By that point in the film, I loved him, but just like that he was gone.
  • The impact of this childhood trauma on Pamela Travers is deep, and it seems a bit needless without the context of her childhood. For example, her father asked her to bring him pears and when she returned, he was gone. Fast forward to Pamela Travers receiving a fruit basket in California and throwing all the pears out her window into he pool. (A fun shot, by the way, watching the pears fall through the water.) You wouldn’t really sympathize with her at all without that kind of context, and I think little things like that were brilliant in illustrating the real difficulty that PL Travers had with reconciling her childhood.
  • I did love that Walt saw that. He knew that Mary Poppins didn’t come in to save the children; he came to save their father. This was in fact true: Mary Poppins was based on a woman who came to try to save her father as he lay in bed dying.
  • I loved the moment when Walt opened up about his own childhood, his cold father and the colder winters when he was forced to deliver papers. (I cried, yes.)
  • Loved the insight into how they worked on some of these musical numbers (i.e. for “Spoonful of Sugar”) and certain design choices, etc. for this film.
  • The scoring itself was beautiful. The music really helped jerk out more tears from my already overflowing eyes. Perfect.

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