Monday, January 13, 2014

Saving Mr. Banks

Starring: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti
Director: John Lee Hancock
Running Time: 2 hours, 5 minutes
Rating: PG-13

"Saving Mr. Banks" will make you laugh and cry. You will be frustrated and you will empathize. You will reminisce and you will tap your feet. What an incredibly unique concept for a film, and a true story! Rather, a stretched re-imagining of the true story of P.L. Travers, the author of beloved “Mary Poppins,” and the lengths it took to get the film made. Emma Thompson shines in this role, though it is difficult to watch someone so closed off emotionally, and not understand why until the end. “Banks” casts a dark shadow over the entire "Poppins" process, with a few moments of song, dance and laughter in between.

The film bounces back and forth between present day and Travers’ magical, yet tragic childhood. I was very impressed with Colin Farrell’s portrayal of Travers’ father, who encourages his daughter to always be a dreamer, all the while drinking himself to death. The slow reveal of this explains much of Travers’ adult behavior, so we ache for her as she copes with this past.

Though Thompson is the star, she has help from her incredible supporting actors. Tom Hanks could play the dictionary and I’d believe it, so I love him as Walt Disney, who has one heck of a time convincing Travers to sign over the rights to her book. But thankfully, he didn't take "no" for an answer. (Well, he did several times, but she eventually came around.) B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman portray the Sherman brothers, who created the iconic “Mary Poppins” soundtrack. I forgot how awesome the songs are! Their debut of “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” will have you wanting to jump out of your seat and soar around the theatre. We also see Paul Giamatti in an extremely likable role, as Travers' driver. Referring to her as “Mrs.”, he is able to break down a few of her walls, giving the audience a reason to look for a good quality in her, and allowing her to find a friend and confidant.

Though it isn’t necessarily a kids’ film, it might make you feel like one. If you don’t watch “Mary Poppins” prior to seeing “Banks,” you’ll want to watch it after. This film has gotten some criticism, that P.L. Travers was much worse than depicted here, or that she wasn't actually a lonesome crab, but all complaints aside, it is a heart-warming movie worth seeing.

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