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588 of 609 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon December 20, 2013
As always, no spoilers whatsoever in this review because that's just plain inconsiderate.

Saving Mr. Banks is a dual narrative portrait of the author of Mary Poppins and the creative team at Walt Disney that worked to bring it to the big screen. In one thread (1961) we have the curmudgeonly author behaving like a stark raving... well, curmudgeon as she tries to exert control over the creative process. In the other thread (1906, Australia) we unwind the story of her grim childhood that makes her a curmudgeon in the first place.

This movie has a lot of things to say not the least of which is to cast an entirely different light that beloved American classic of childhood. Mary Poppins ain't quite what you think it's about as a kid (but then what good movie IS what you think it's about when you're a kid). It's also a powerful demonstration of how our childhood influences us as adults sometimes in ways that we don't quite grasp until we look back on them from a great distance.

It's also interesting to see behind the curtain of the creative process. Avoiding spoilers, the author's primary objection is that Mary Poppins and the Banks family have become, in truth, her family over the years and sharing that vision and letting someone else have a piece of them is frightfully difficult. It does make a person wonder if all authors have this same struggle when crossing mediums.

Lastly, I'm a sucker for sentiment but this movie had the audience blowing its nose and audibly sniffing for a good hour. It's an incredibly intimate portrait. However, the kids won't think much of it and the group in the theatre with me was 50+ for the most part. All that said, highly recommended for anyone with a sentimental streak. Best movie I've seen in a month or more.

Oh, and the patient who sit through the credits will be treated to some photos from the movie's production and a section of the recorded conversations between the author and the production cast.

PS: It is always my endeavor to provide helpful reviews. If you find my review helpful then I'm glad! If you do not, then please leave me a comment indicating what you want to know and I'll be sure to do better next time.
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173 of 186 people found the following review helpful
Saving Mr. Banks is the story of how Walt Disney came to make what is now regarded as his masterpiece: the much seen and much loved Mary Poppins, which was based on the series of very popular childrens books by P.L. Travers. Or rather, this _a_ version of the story. A somewhat sanitized and highly romanticized version. The real story unfolded rather differently. But that said, Saving Mr. Banks is at its heart, after all, a story and not a documentary, and in that context it's a highly enjoyable story.

Directed by John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side, The Rookie) from a screenplay by Kelly Marcel (Terra Nova) and Sue Smith, (The Road from Coorain), Saving Mr. Banks is set in California in 1961 but flashes back to Australia in 1907 and Travers' early childhood.

Walt Disney (winningly played by Tom Hanks) has a problem. Many years ago, when his two daughters were quite young, he made a promise to them that he would make a movie of their favorite story-book character, Mary Poppins, the heroine of the series of popular books by English author P.L. Travers. His problem is that Travers (a bravura performance by Emma Thompson) doesn't want to sell him the screen rights to make the movie and has been refusing to do so for two decades. But Ms. Travers also has a problem - money. Her books aren't selling as well as they once did, and the only way out of her financial situation seems to be agreeing to meet with Disney about finally selling him the screen rights. This quickly becomes a clash between Disney's charming but determined irresistible force and Travers' seemingly immovable objections to everything about the project, which despite her needs she seems determined to prevent. It seems that the negotiations are doomed to fail, but then, as we have come expect from anything Disney "like a bolt out of the blue, fate steps in and sees you through". How that happens, and why, is what the movie is really about.

The performances are excellent. Tom Hanks' Disney is engaging, showing the man's charm and his frustrations but also his determination to realize his dream. It's interesting that in some ways Hanks may end up competing with himself at Oscar time for his performance in this year's Captain Phillips, where he also played a man caught up in a clash of wills, albeit a more desperate one. Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility, Howard's End) is a certainty for an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of a very complex Travers, showing how Mary Poppins was not merely a literary creation - it was her way of trying to reconcile her inner conflicts over her difficult childhood, in particular her relationship with her father, Travers Goff, the real-life basis for the Mr. Banks of the title. Colin Farrell gives a stand-out performance as Goff, one of the best of his career, showing the man's complex nature, from his all-too-obvious flaws to the part of him that still managed to endear himself in his daughter's memory. Paul Giamatti shows his nice side as Ralph, Traver's driver, who gives her a sympathetic ear to turn to in the midst of people she deems adversaries. One of the more moving scenes in the movie occurs when Giamatti's Ralph explains to Travers just why he's so seemingly focused on the weather and why every sunny day is a good day. It's rather startling actually to see Giamatti play nice after having just seen his decidedly nasty turn as a slave dealer in 12 Years a Slave. The Disney creative team was particularly well done. Bradley Whitford (The Good Guys, The West Wing) plays Don DaGradi, Disney's top screenwriter, and B.J. Novak (The Office, Inglourious Basterds) and Jason Schwartzman (Moonrise Kingdom, The Darjeeling Limited) are remarkably paired as the song-writing brothers Robert and Richard Sherman, all of whom are just as anxious as Disney to win Travers over. Their scenes give remarkable insight into the creative process involved not only in adapting a novel for film but in adapting to try and please and/or placate a difficult author at the same time.

Also worth noting is the musical score by Thomas Newman (Wall-E, Skyfall) which nicely adds to the emotions being displayed on the screen and evokes the varying time and place of the scenes, using wistful lilting melodies and occasional subdued overtones for Travers' childhood in rural Australia and more modern sounds with a slightly faster pace for 1960's California. It's something of a challenge to pull off without the shifts feeling jarring but Newman manages it quite well. And equally impressive is John Schwartzman's cinematography as it brings both settings to vivid life, seamlessly switching from one to the other as the story unfolds.

But as I indicated at the beginning, one should remember that this is a more than a little sanitized and sentimentalized version of not only the events that took place but of the people themselves, particularly Disney and Travers. For example, at no point in the film is Hanks' Disney ever seen smoking even though for most of his adult life Disney was a notorious chain-smoker, ultimately dying of lung cancer just two years after the Mary Poppins film was released). Neither is there any real hint of how ruthless and even cold Disney could be. The Disney you see here is the warm "Uncle Walt" version that he carefully crafted for himself, not the man who notoriously sacked child actor Bobby Driscoll after the release of Peter Pan or Tommy Kirk, star of many Disney films and the Mickey Mouse Club TV show, after he found out that Kirk was gay. Thompson's P.L. Travers also gets a scrubbing, making her an overly fussy and lonely but oh-so-proper Englishwoman, completely at odds with her rather Bohemian younger years and the multiple romantic relationships she had in her life with members of both sexes. And who in reality never married even though in the film she repeatedly insists on being addressed as "Mrs. Travers". Nor is there anything but the slightest hint of her adopted son, the story of which would have revealed her own rather cold and ruthless side. But again, this isn't a documentary - it's a story, and as such should be enjoyed for what it is. No more, no less.

One final note - make sure to stay through the end credits, where they not only show photos of all of the real people depicted in the film but also play one of the actual tape-recorded planning sessions between Travers and the Disney team. Those scenes - along with the ones of Travers' early childhood in Australia - were the most factually accurate parts of the movie.

Highly recommended as an entertaining version of an important episode of Disney movie history. The real-life version is out there for anyone who wants to look it up and it's quite interesting in its own right, but this version is the one you'll want to take your kids to see.
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159 of 181 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2014
Saving Mr. Banks is the kind of film that Hollywood ought to love. It's about how one of the most beloved movies in movie history got made. And it's the first time Walt Disney has ever been portrayed in a movie, so that's saying a lot. And, just to put all of this perspective, when Disney first heard that the movie was being made, they're first reaction was to buy it and squash it. See, there's a reason Walt has never been portrayed onscreen before. However, after looking at it, they decided not only not to do that but to produce it! It's that kind of movie.

And it's good. I mean, it's really good. I know it is because my wife cried through about the last third of it. I will be extremely surprised if it doesn't get the best picture Oscar this year. Overall, from what we've seen so far, I think it's most well rounded show out there. And it leaves you feeling good after having had a good cry.

Not to get into what the movie is about, but it's about how Walt Disney convinced P. L. Travers to give him the rights to make Mary Poppins, something it took him 20 years to do. Along with that story, you see the story of the defining moment of Travers' childhood, which shows why Poppins was so important to her. From what I've seen from fact-checking, the movie is fairly accurate, which is another plus. A big one, actually. They did have hours and hours of audio recordings from sessions with Travers and some of the people working on the movie (because she insisted that everything be recorded), so they wouldn't have had a good excuse for it not being accurate.

So, first, let's talk Tom Hanks. Oh, man, Tom Hanks was... incredible. There were moments, especially when they showed him watching himself on the old black and white TV show Walt introduced, where he was just like Disney. And, from everything I've read, Hanks did capture Walt to an amazing extent. I do know that the folks at Disney Studios shaved Hanks' mustache to the exact dimensions that Walt wore his. His only being called a supporting actor for this role, but I think it's a safe bet that he will at least get a nomination for it. I will not at all be surprised if he wins. Actually, I hope he does. [I haven't seen Captain Phillips, yet, but he's also being talked about for a best actor nomination for that one.]

Then, we have to talk Emma Thompson, and she may just deserve best actress for her performance. That's a tough call for me, though, because Sandra Bullock carried an entire movie virtually by herself, and that's an impressive feat. However, I'm not sure anyone else could have pulled off Travers the way Thompson did. It was a great performance, and she and Hanks were perfect together.

Paul Giamatti was lovable as Ralph, the chauffeur. This role probably wasn't especially difficult for Giamatti, but he was perfect in it. Jason Schwartzman and B. J. Novak were awesome as Richard and Robert Sherman. Not the parts called for too much, but it was great to see them in the movie. They were good, too. Especially this one part with Novak, but I don't want to spoil it, so you'll just have to see it; then, I'll tell you which one.

Which brings us to Colin Farrell. Farrell is one of those underrated actors who is almost always excellent despite the horrible movies he's in. I mean, Alexander wasn't really his fault, and how can you blame him for not turning down Total Recall? At any rate, he's wonderful and wonderfully tragic as Travers Goff. He was my favorite part of the movie. I mentioned that my wife cried, but there were some scenes of Goff with his daughter where I almost cried. That's kind of saying a lot for me.

I loved this movie. Of the possible best picture nominees, if you have to pick just one, this is the one I would recommend. Sure, Gravity is visually amazing, but this movie has heart that Gravity just doesn't have, no matter how you feel about Walt Disney. And let me make this clear, the movie is not about Walt Disney; the script was written (and not changed) before Disney (the Company) had a hand in it; the movie is about Travers and how she was ultimately convinced to allow Walt to make Mary Poppins into a movie. It's definitely worth seeing.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
The creative clash of a powerful Hollywood producer and a best-selling author over the making of a movie would appear to be thin material for a holiday movie. In the capable hands of the Walt Disney Company and a host of excellent actors, "Saving Mr. Banks" is an unexpected pleasure, funny and emotionally engaging in a powerful way.

The movie opens in 1961. P.L. Travers, author of the "Mary Poppins" series of books, has been persuaded to fly to California to discuss the making of a movie with Walt Disney himself. Travers (Emma Thompson) is very much invested in protecting her character from Hollywood exploitation, just about as much as Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) wants to make a movie out of the story. Travers makes life very difficult for Disney's creative team and Walt himself.

Paralleling Travers' adventures in America is the story of her upbringing, half a century earlier, in rural Australia, a slow-motion tragedy that is the deep backstory to her "Mary Poppins" characters. Devotion to her memories of that childhood are a stumbling block to the creative process in the present. Walt Disney will be driven to great lengths to meet her more than halfway, culminating in a fateful conversation over tea back in London and a promise to respect her memories, even if it means remaking them a little.

The acting in this movie is special. Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson are terrific together. Colin Ferrell is heartbreaking as Travers' father, the inspiration for Mr. Banks. Paul Giamatti is superb as Travers' limo driver in California, the one person who doesn't have an agenda. A dozen other actors, including Kathy Bates and Ruth Wilson, have well-rounded supporting roles. Annie Rose Buckley almost steals the movie as the solemn young Travers.

This movie is a "talky", with no action to speak of. The sets, whether 1961 or 1906, are convincing. The humor is often subtle but quite good. The dramatization carries real emotional impact. The movie will make more sense if the viewer has seen the classic movie "Mary Poppins". Highly recommended.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon December 6, 2013
Doesn't Tom Hanks ever just sit down and relax? After the grueling "Captain Phillips," what does he do for an encore? He gives us Walt Disney (with a regulation mustache) during the time he clashes with P.L. Travers, the feisty woman who wrote "Mary Poppins." (I never heard about that, did you? Evidently this battle was waged over a 20-year period, as their respective fortunes waxed and waned.)

The doughty author is an unbending, sharp-tongued shrew who flings insults with arrogant abandon but expects to be treated with deference and respect. "I am Mrs. Travers, NOT Pamela!" She intimidates everyone she encounters, ignores contracts and marches out of meetings without compunction. The pears in her complimentary fruit basket at the Beverly Hills hotel are lobbed off the balcony. Her outrageous demands are legendary: "There will be no RED in this film!"

We follow:
* Tom Hanks ("Cloud Atlas") as Walt Disney, beset by a cantankerous dame who will not trust him to do justice to her beloved character. It takes his insight and shared memories of mutually unlovable fathers that allows him to finally make a tiny dent in her armor.
* Emma Thompson ("Nanny McPhee") is P.L. Travers who swears she will make sure her creation is treated with respect. To her, Disney is the personification of a Hollywood machine that will maul her magical nanny beyond recognition. (He first proposed an animated version.)
* Annie Rose Buckley ("Home and Away") is Ginty, the name her doting father called our author when she was a child in Australia. We see numerous flashbacks that illustrate her hardscrabble childhood.
* Colin Farrell ("Dead Man Down") is Travers Goff, her beloved banker father who colors her childhood with his affection and his drunkenness. Farrell continues to dazzle me with his range and skill! He even makes his drunken character lovable.
* Ruth Wilson ("Luther") is Margaret, our author's long-suffering mother, living at the lonely end of the railroad line in Australia.
* Rachel Griffiths ("Brothers & Sisters") is Aunt Ellie, umbrella and bottomless carpetbag in hand, come to that miserable house to help the struggling family. The moment we see her rigid silhouette at the front door, we KNOW who inspired Mary Poppins!
* Paul Giamatti ("Romeo and Juliet") is Ralph, the first American to face Travers' withering scorn; he is her limo driver. She isn't impressed by California; when she sniffs the air, he tells her she is smelling jasmine, she thinks it "smells of sweat!"

"Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" is hidden from Mrs. Travers because she won't tolerate nonsense. Disney's talented but thoroughly cowed songwriters (played by Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak) are out-witted, out-foxed and out-maneuvered by this wily, determined, and exasperating woman.

The screening audience often laughed at her acerbic (PG-13) wit. Me, not so much; I missed a lot because I couldn't hear it. I found myself longing for closed captions; I know I'll love my DVD when it becomes available on Amazon.

Oh! Mr. Banks is the children's father in "Mary Poppins." He's a banker. Did you remember that?
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 2014
What a beautiful, touchingly poignant, and uplifting film. 1960s SoCal is colorfully recreated in an idyllic shimmer, reminiscent of those blissful and unspoiled Ozzie and Harriet days. And — to affectionately borrow the term — legendary “imagineers” of timeless filmmaking are resurrected and portrayed before our very eyes by an equally celebrated cast and crew. A number of movers and shakers from the early Walt Disney Studios are wonderfully brought to life, including the Sherman brothers who wrote the Mary Poppins musical songs, one of whom served as musical consultant for this film. Walt Disney himself is cleverly and consummately played by Tom Hanks, and Emma Thompson has once again taken on a roll so well that it’s hard to imagine anyone else doing it justice. She’s just so likable, ya know?
The wardrobes, costumes, set designs, and hairstyles are delightful and superbly true to the era. The musical score is simultaneously stirring and cheerful. Notable among the excellent cadre of supporting actors is Paul Giammati, who appears as one of Walt Disney’s chauffeurs.
Now for the story itself: one word — WOW. (Ok, maybe more than one word…) This is one of those rare stories that you hope movie studios take the time to tell, and to tell it right. And Disney truly delivered. The viewer gets the overwhelming sensation of peering into the highly personal story behind a guarded (and allegedly lonely) life of a very private literary great, P.L. Travers, who wrote the Mary Poppins children’s novels. (For those not wanting any more details, consider this your spoiler alert.) Her tale picks up where she is considering selling the film rights to Walt Disney, something the cartoonist had been trying to secure from her for two decades. It’s highly personal for both parties — Disney made a promise to his daughters to bring the famous nanny to life on screen, and Travers doesn’t want to see her beloved creations altered in any way (though “butchered” might be nearer the mark, in her mind). Travers proves just as complicated, stiff, and impossible to please as ever, and yet, Thompson plays her in a way that the viewer empathizes with her every emotion. Much of her prickliness has to do with the backstory of her doting father, and her love for him — he is played by Colin Farrell, and although Travers' real life father has been somewhat coldly described as an "unsuccessful banker” by historians, his character tends to remind us that some people are just too good for this world, in the best sense.
After Travers is ever so delicately coaxed into flying to California to negotiate the film rights, the only person who seems to disarm her off-putting facade is the aforementioned chauffeur, Ralph (Giammatti), and we get to see a thoughtful, caring, and personable side to her. There are some really funny moments peppered throughout, partly because Travers finds America and its citizens’ lifestyle so abhorrent to her very English manners and sensibilities.
I won’t share any more spoilers, but I will say that the premise behind the title of the movie was very surprising and clever; I had thought that this movie would be about making sure a fictional character, or his integrity, stays intact in Walt Disney’s adaptation of "Mary Poppins”.
The real story offers so much more beyond my preexisting expectations. The performances and the production will bring a smile to your face, and your heart will be warmed. This is a movie worth seeing.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 2, 2014
Okay, I won't say it should have made a clean sweep at the recent Academy Awards, I haven't seen the other films that were nominated yet, but at the very least, this film deserved nominations across the board. "Saving Mr. Banks" is an amazing film. Practically perfect in every way. Yeah, I'm sure that has gotten used a lot in reviews about it. Sorry.

The film, based on actual events, tells the story of a reluctant visit by "Mary Poppins" author P.L. Travers to the U.S., more specifically, to the Walt Disney Studios, to give Walt Disney one last chance to convince her to sign over the movie rights to the beloved children's book. This is going to be no easy job though. This is a woman dead set against her precious characters being reinterpreted by anyone else, least of all Walt Disney! She's a serious, proper woman with no fondness for pixie dust, singing, or (most especially) cartoons! The story moves back and forth between the "present", in this case being the early 1960's, and Travers' memories of her own childhood in Australia in the early 1900's. The film gives equal attention and importance to both periods, and it interacts together beautifully, playing the tragedy of Travers' childhood against the magical optimism of Walt Disney's fantasy infused world.

Everything about this film, visually, is beautiful. The acting, it is simply top notch. We're talking about Tom Hanks as Walt Disney and Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers. Thompson is masterful at making a very unpleasant woman equally sympathetic and heartbreaking, but certainly, that is helped by the wonderful performances in the flashbacks. I admit, I have never been a Colin Farrell fan. I don't like the "bad boy" image (and how much it fascinates women...), but I have to give him props for his performances as a kind, loving father who had ended up in a career completely contrary to his personality, and who turned to alcoholism in a hopeless attempt to deal with it. The adorable Annie Rose Buckley plays young P.L. Travers, and she is a treasure in this film. Now, I was very concerned, I admit, about the role of Walt Disney. Hanks certainly has the spirit, but could he pull it off? Seeing the first photos of him in the role had me worried! But that was completely unnecessary. Once he is perfectly introduced in the film, I complete accept him as Uncle Walt. Tom is simply amazing in the role! We also get Bradley Whitford as script writer Don DaGradi, and B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman as Robert and Richard Sherman respectively, the legendary brothers behind so many of our favorite Disney songs. These performances are all priceless, and there are more as well, but the highlight for me was really Paul Giamatti as P.L.'s Disney driver during her Los Angeles stay, Ralph. Though his role is not quite as large as the others, it is just as important to making the film work, and Paul never fails to bring me to tears with his sincerity.

The single Oscar nomination this film landed was for the score, and it's well deserved. There is much Mary Poppins music incorporated into it and throughout the film. The scenes in the 1960's at the Disney Studio spend a large amount of time in a rehearsal room near Walt's office. It's in this room where the Sherman Brothers, DaGradi, and Polly (Michelle Arthur), I forget what her position was, but another fine performance, perform songs for Mrs. Travers and attempt to negotiate dialogue, designs, and everything else going into bring the world of Mary Poppins to the silver screen. It's some truly great stuff, sometimes quite hilarious, and sometimes seemingly hopeless. Now, keep in mind that we don't see the movie being filmed, nor the actors or anything else. This is early in production on "Mary Poppins". After all, Walt doesn't even have the rights to make the film yet. This brings up an important issue though. Have you seen Mary Poppins?!!! If you haven't, whether you see "Saving Mr. Banks" or not, you really need to see "Mary Poppins". And, no, the stage version is not a suitable substitute. In fact, I really disliked it when I saw it a couple years ago, aside from the Step in Time bit. But, honestly, I wonder and I really don't know how someone could fully appreciate "Saving Mr. Banks" if they haven't seen "Mary Poppins", the classic Disney film. I really don't recommend it. As some have suggested, yes, definitely buy (or rent) both of them, and watch Mary Poppins BEFORE Banks. I also recommend watching it after, but you NEED to have seen it beforehand, I think. Oh, I suppose you can still enjoy Banks, but really, it's going to be far, far less than if you know what they're talking about (and arguing about). Let's just say, "Mary Poppins" is truly one of the greatest films ever. I mean EVER. Of course, if you're a hardcore Disney fan, "Saving Mr. Banks" is probably one of your "greatest films ever" too, and there's no reason it shouldn't be. I'm not certain I would put it on that list myself, but it definitely is a true fave, and I'm sure it deserves to be counted among the best films of last year.

As for the Blu-Ray release of "Saving Mr. Banks", well, it leaves a lot to be desired in the department of supplements, and that's too bad. The combo pack does NOT include a DVD. Odd for a Disney release. Instead, you get the digital copy. At least those don't require separate discs anymore (or hard drive space), but I liked having the DVD even more. More importantly though, there are only 3 bonus features on the disc. They are great, but they are only three. First, there are a few deleted scenes. Let me say, all these scenes are great. I almost wish they had all been left in. There is this great scene with Giamatti standing up to Walt, to a slight degree, that is just awesome. I understand leaving that one out to keep Walt in a good light (not that it is bad, but it shows him pressuring P.L. perhaps more than the company would like, but kudos on including it in the bonus features anyway), but still, it's as powerful as it is subtle. The second bonus feature is an excellent one. It's basically your behind the scenes of the film, though it's largely about the Disney Studios at the time of when it was set. The film's director, John Lee Hancock, takes us on a tour of the Disney Studios and spends time with the real Richard Sherman in the very places all these events happened. It's some very touching stuff. The final bonus feature is a quick, musical moment from the last day of shooting. A sort of cast party singing along as the real Richard Sherman plays "Let's Go Fly a Kite" on the piano. Another very touching bit of footage. Yeah, the bonus features are all excellent, but again, just three. I tell ya, a commentary track with the real Richard Sherman sitting in would be awesome! Even if it was just for certain scenes.

Overall, if you are a Disney fanatic, you definitely need this film in your collection. if you love the movie "Mary Poppins", you definitely need this film in your collection, but even if you just love this cast and great acting, and old Hollywood, there is so much to love about this film! I love the way they captured the time periods, by the way! I'm not a huge fan of some aspects of the 1960's, but Disney 60's is a whole other thing (I suppose it falls in line with the Mad Men style, but with more stuffed animals and fun), and this film captures it beautifully! Even the Disney Park costumed characters and plush toys are perfectly dated! With the exception of Chip and Dale, ha. Did they add that shot in later? At least once, I saw some very 21st Century Chip 'n' Dale costumes, ha, but that was like a couple of seconds of something only a Disney nut like me would notice, ha. Otherwise, yep, "Saving Mr. Banks" is practically perfect in every way!
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
John Lee Hancock (The Blindside, The Rookie) directed this wonderful film that gives a much curious insight into what became one of Walt Disney’s most popular and beloved movies ever, “Mary Poppins”. With a wonderful script by Kelly Marcel (Fifty Shades of Grey, Terra Nova) and Sue Smith (Peaches, The Cooks), “Saving Mr. Banks” is a film about a film that almost didn’t get made.

It’s hard to believe the author herself P.L. Travers, wanted nothing to do with Hollywood, the entertainment industry overall and especially Walt Disney who ironically enough did not give her blessing, begrudgingly, for over 20 years. Headlining the Travers herself is the tour-de-force performance of Emma Thompson (Nanny McPhee, Primary Colors) as the old-fashioned, somewhat bitter author who really was a real thorn in Walt’s side as well as the Sherman Brothers as they tried and tried composed the music for the original film much to her dismay.

Tom Hanks (Big, Splash) gives an equally amazing performance as the man everyone knows, but knows very little about in terms of his personal style and personality traits. Turns out that Tom is amazing at getting across Disney’s convictions, warmth, true heart and the simplicity of fulfilling a promise to his daughters of making a movie called “Mary Poppins” based on Travers books. Again, he shines in his persona and makes it very easy to believe the man who warms the hearts of millions can even have problems sometimes warming the heart of just one person.

Tom and Emma have such a great on-screen chemistry together and the constant infusion of P.L.’s ideas and concepts while tearing apart the project overall were a great contrast to Disney ever trying so hard to get to know her and figure her out and why she is so bitter. The movie has a really slow pace for the first 45 minutes or so, but then picks up as Emma shines as the feistiest and irritable English woman you will ever see on screen.

The Sherman Brothers, the men who created the music for much of the award-winning Disney library are the ones who had the most difficult time working with P.L. as she was more than mean, cross and downright rude and the roles were poignantly cast by B.J. Novak (The Internship, The Office) as Robert Sherman and Jason Swartzman (Bored To Death, Scott Pilgram Vs. The World) as Richard Sherman. They have some amazing scenes with Emma that will definitely make you raise an eyebrow and feel for the brothers anguish.

Another surprise in the film is Paul Giamatti (Sideways, Turbo) who gives a wonderful performance as the driver assigned to take P.L. wherever she needs to go in Los Angeles while Disney tries to swoon her for the rights to do her book on film. Paul is subtle and sensitive and amazingly heartwarming in his performance and you’ll actually cheer for him by the end.

This movie is written in a visual style that intertwines P.L. Travers real life from her past intermixed with the current time of Disney and Travers trying to make a deal for her book. We get to see her as a young girl and her most important influence in her life, her father, who is wonderfully played by Collin Farrell (Phone Booth, Total Recall). At first it was a little strange, but as you see how everything ties together, cutting back and forth - it eventually makes much more sense.

Thomas Newman ( Wall*E, Skyfall) adds his wonderful score to a really powerfully performed movie. This film will definitely warm your heart by the end. And, even with its Hollywood sprinkles of glamour throughout, “Saving Mr. Banks” portrays very real people and real feelings. It’s amazing what Disney had to go through to get “Mary Poppins” made. I give kudos to every performance in this film and a good insight to the creation of a legend. Don’t miss this one.
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53 of 70 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2014
"Savings Mr. Banks" is worth seeing for Emma Thompson's peerless performance as "Mary Poppins" author PL Travers. That Thompson was not nominated for a best actor Academy Award is a crime. Thompson's performance is one of the most compelling and convincing performances I've ever seen.

Thompson plays PL Travers as a witch, and I'm using the nice version of the word. You know what word I really mean. Thompson's Travers is thoroughly believable. This isn't a cartoon villainess. This isn't Cruella DaVille or Maleficent. This is a woman you could imagine having as a boss or a neighbor. You'd do everything you could to avoid her. She doesn't learn any lesson. She doesn't reveal that we are all warm and fuzzy if you just get close enough.

Some have criticized "Saving Mr. Banks" for this reason. They say that it's sexist to depict a successful woman author as being a witch. Baloney. It would be sexist to depict her as warm and cuddly. Women can be unpleasant. I know plenty of women like Travers. It isn't liberated to insist that all women are nice. Plenty of women are not nice at all.

I found Thompson's depiction of Travers to be so powerful that the rest of the film didn't measure up, for me. Part of the film takes place in 1961. Travers is in Hollywood, working with Disney studios on their film adaptation of her book "Mary Poppins." Part of the film is a series of flashbacks to Travers' childhood in Australia. In the flashbacks, Colin Farrell plays Travers' alcoholic father. The flashbacks didn't work for me. They had the feel of an afterschool special. Everyone was so good looking, especially Colin Farrell, even while suffering the health effects of alcoholism. Annie Rose Buckley, who plays the author as a child, is cherubically beautiful. The scenes depicting the alcoholic father disappointing and humiliating his daughter, and breaking her heart, did not affect me at all. They felt paint-by-numbers – oh, this is the predictable scene where the little girl realizes her father is a loser.

The 1961 scenes in Hollywood worked much better. Paul Giamatti is amazing in the small part of Travers' limo driver. He brings a wallop of humanity and poignancy to his role that really swept me off my feet. The two develop a real rapport, and they could have taken up much more of the film. Jason Schwartzman and BJ Novak are also brilliant as Robert and Richard Sherman, who wrote the songs for Mary Poppins. In one scene, Travers objects to Robert Sherman's walking with a cane. The film doesn't mention this; I wish it had. Sherman was only 19 or 20 years old when he participated in the liberation of Dachau. He was shot during the war. That's why he walked with a cane.

Tom Hanks as Walt Disney didn't really work for me. Walt Disney was a totemic figure from my childhood. I remember him, in his TV appearances, as rather godlike – avuncular and yet distant, impenetrable. While watching Emma Thompson as PL Travers, I got the sense that I was watching something like the real PL Travers – a real, complex, human being. While watching Tom Hanks as Walt Disney, I got the sense that I was watching Tom Hanks play a sanitized version of Walt Disney. "Saving Mr. Banks" was very brave in its depiction of Travers, but very vanilla in its depiction of Walt. Giamatti as the fictional limo driver had more depth and complexity.

The movie is most valuable as a character piece. It tries to say some big things about how people live through sorrow, like Travers' childhood, and survive that sorrow by creating art about it, like "Mary Poppins." That big idea really didn't wash for me. I know it's possibly true, but that message just didn't grab me, so the movie was not a ten, but it's certainly worth viewing for Thompson's performance, for her interplay with Giamatti and the Sherman brothers as played by Schwartzman and Novak.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon March 13, 2014
SAVING MR. BANKS is a lovely little movie filled with assured performances from excellent actors, soft music, beautiful cinematography, and a gentle pace. It is an easy film to watch, and easier to like. Though much of the nuances of plot were spoiled by the trailers (oh, the curse of the Internet!), I found myself lulled into the narrative, and came out refreshed from the film (if not a little irked at a few plot points).

To get it over quickly, let's talk about those cons first. Then the pros. The main con I have with the film is about a little something called character arcs. Storywriting 101 says that your main character has to have an arc throughout the narrative - he/she has to change or grow. Ms. Travers did not. She began the film an insufferable dweeb, and remained an insufferable dweeb for the duration of the film. As the film progresses, and she remains mean and rude towards Disney and his staff no matter what their attempts to cajole her, entice her, please her, or impress her, it gets MORE than a LITTLE tiresome. It is only thanks to Emma Thompson's brilliant performance that I sympathized with her at all. Secondly, I only wish that the character of the REAL Mary Poppins was explored a bit more.

But heck, enough of cons. On to pros... Firstly, the cast of MR. BANKS is absolutely awesome. Emma Thompson gives a brilliant and memorable performance as Ms. PL Travers (never Pamela!), an author with a very different sense of style than the Yanks, approached by Walt Disney for her book rights. Tom Hanks reminds us why he's perhaps the greatest American actor of his age, with a funny and moving portrayal of Disney himself. The supporting cast - a charismatic Colin Farrell, a warm Paul Giamatti, and BJ Novak and Jason Schwartzman as songwriters Dick and Bob Sherman give surprisingly subtle performances worthy of their high calibre.

As I mentioned before, the soft score, the warm lighting and cinematography, and the calm assurance of veteran actors all add up to a funny and heart-warming film with excellent production values and morals, that will have you singing "Let's go FLY a KITE!" in no time. I know I was singing that for hours. My rating? 4 (and a half) flying kites! Now to rewatch Mary Poppins!

P.S. If this review was helpful in your decision, please give it a like. Thanks!
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