Saturday, December 21, 2013

Saving Mr. Banks

       The film is based on the true story of how Walt Disney convinced author P L Travers to give him the film rights for "Mary Poppins". On the surface it doesn't sound that inviting but thanks to a first rate script, beautiful direction and a superb cast, the film will surprise and captivate you.

        Director John Lee Handcock deftly moves between Los Angeles in the early '60's and in flashbacks, the Australian wilderness of the early 1900's. We learn the inspiration for the beloved story from the author's own childhood, and her motivation for initially not wanting it turned into a film by Mr. Disney.

         Emma Thompson is simply glorious as T L Travers. There is not a false note anywhere in a remarkable performance. Tom Hanks is the embodiment of Walt Disney and the two actors have great chemistry between them. Paul Giamatti is Ralph, the limo driver assigned to Mrs. Travers. While a small part, Mr. Giamatti gives subtle performance that becomes important to the story. The film also stars Colin Farrell and Ruth Wilson ( both terrific)  as Mrs. Travers parents seen in the flashback sequences. A wonderful child actress, Annie Rose Buckley plays the young Mrs. Travers and she is a delight, wise beyond her years.

         Bradley Whitford is "Mary Poppins" Screenwriter Don DeGradi and Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak play the Sherman brothers who wrote the music and lyrics for "Mary Poppins". Ms. Thompson elevates everyone's acting in every scene she's in, particularly in the rehearsal scenes with this trio. It's also good to see Kathy Baker and Rachel Griffiths in supporting roles.

          This is not necessarily a film for children as it deals with adult themes and some serious moments. There is very little of "Mary Poppins" in the film but it's a fascinating background story of how "she" came to life on the screen.

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