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Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

Biographical films are a hit or miss at my house. From the first time trailers for this film came out, it was one I thought looked like a “must-see.” Now the DVD finally arrived on store shelves, I grabbed a copy and settled in on a Saturday night to watch it.  

Promising his daughters a picture adaptation of their favorite childhood novel has been a journey 20 years in the making for Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) and his enterprise, and turning the P.L Travers book Mary Poppins into a Disney film has been no small feat for Walt, a man who likes to be called by his first name at work and encourages his employees to adopt the same casual environment. His plans to get the rights to the Mary Poppins book is about to be realized when finally a visit is arranged between the author’s agent and Disney himself with plans for her to be a part of the creative process. Only trouble is, Walt is about to find out that he is not going tow obtain film rights with one signature nor will “Pamela” be easily swayed by his promises of entrusting the Banks family to his film studios.  

Mrs. Pamela Travers (Emma Thompson) refuses to settle for anything less than her vision of the story which means no animation (who ever heard of animated penguins?), no songs (Mary isn’t some twinkling character) and absolutely none of the color red is to be used in the film! As she works on the film with the Sherman brothers, visions of the past replay in her mind leading Mrs. Travers to recall the days past when the father (Colin Farrell) of her story moves his family to a new country home and takes on a new job in what was supposed to be a fresh start for the family that spirals out of control with fatal results. 

Can I just say March was an epic month for DVD releases? Like really, a whole slew of keepers have finally found a place at my house. Okay, so now I’ve gotten that off my mind… moving on. There are probably very few childhood memories that don’t include a viewing of Mary Poppins, it’s one of those movies most of us lump into the “classics” even if it’s not a favorite. It’s a film I’ve seen though not one I own or have watched dozens of times; apart from always forgetting that Julie Andrews starred as its titular character (seriously, who remembers her as anyone but Maria VonTrapp?), this Disney cinematic masterpiece was a relative unknown to my. Reading through trivia comments (plus other reviews), it sounds as if this film isn’t historically accurate which may annoy potential viewers who have a gripe about accuracy nonetheless as with everything, I suspect there is truth to be gleamed even if only in glimmers of what is here and certainly there are poignant moments that will touch us.

Every frame that introduces a new character will likely have you recognizing familiar faces not just in its two veteran stars (Hanks and Thompson) – there is Ruth Wilson (Jane Eyre, The Lone Ranger), Paul Giamatti (whose character was a nice addition), Rachel Griffiths, Kathy Baker and the adorable newbie Annie Rose Buckley. Whether or not the cast depicts their respective characters with any modicum of credibility – I don’t know nor in all honesty do I really mind one way or another as anything creative will likely blur lines and ruffle feathers, everyone brings something to the film. Hanks (who happens to be a not-so-favorite actor) brings fun and charisma to Disney, Thompson a heartbreaking portrait of what her story means on a personal level to P.L. Travers and the young Annie plays Helen flawlessly in a role that is a mix of innocence and an old soul forced to grow up because of the circumstances she was placed in - particularly heart-wrenching is a scene between her and her mother in a dramatic moment of clarification for her weary mother. Really everyone – whether they had top billing or not, deserves recognition. Also impressive was the atmosphere of the film, this included the costuming, the sets and props. Those behind the camera put together a top-notch film that shouldn’t have gone unnoticed.  

If it were not for a running time that overstayed its welcome (or perhaps it was just that I was watching it late at night), this film would have been a perfect example of a bio film – even if the term must be used loosely, that in this girl’s opinion was golden. In fact I may even overlook the overlong time because really, Saving Mr. Banks is beautiful. Starting out with stunning camera work, the flashbacks work really well in the first 10-15 minutes before they transition awkwardly or out-of-place in spots then there are others that seamlessly blend from present to past. The comedy is brilliant as is the imagination of the script which offsets the bittersweet ending. When all is said and done, cue the credits, this film was memorable. It’s something I’ll enjoy revisiting and was a unique look at the creation of a story rather than the result of it.

(Parental review: one character indulges in alcohol more than is healthy for his well-being and that of his family [he often embarrasses his family and is a disgrace to his occupation]. One scene depicts an attempted suicide, the person wades into the water with the intention of drowning only to be stopped by a child. There are scenes of a man coughing up blood. Aside from that, the film is of more interest to older audiences with a PG13 rating.)
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  1. I'm so excited to see this movie! My mom and I were planning on seeing it one weekend in January when my dad was out of town, only to find that it wasn't in the theater anymore. I haven't been able to get the DVD yet, but I do have it on my Netflix queue (it's not available on there until later this month). Anyway, I'm hoping to see it soon. :)

    I didn't grow up watching Mary Poppins...I only started watching it as a teenager when I first got into classic movies. I enjoy it, but I don't consider it one of my absolute favorites. I've read the first one or two of the original Mary Poppins books, and I really loved those. They're beautifully imaginative. I love how book-Mary is so different from film-Mary! Book-Mary is always cross and she's rather conceited and unlikable, but I actually think I prefer her (ha...go figure).

    I like Tom Hanks well enough (mostly in You've Got Mail :) and I love Emma Thompson. And with my love of all things Disney and classic movies and the 60s, I'm pretty sure this movie is one that I'll love. Whenever I finally get to see it! :)

    1. I think you'll enjoy it, Kristin! Aw, that's a bummer it didn't work out for you and your mom to see it in January. My dad takes trips in the summer for work, and mom and I like to see a movie too. It's a fun outing. :)

      Honestly, I cannot remember the first time I saw Mary Poppins but I do know I've likely only seen it 2-3 times at most. (Probably on the smaller end of that.) It's a cute story although as you say, it's not a favorite. Reading the books should be something I give a shot now I've seen a behind-the-scenes look at the making of its film - and you know, I read that the book version of Mary was the opposite of film Mary while I was looking up trivia bits while reviewing this. That IS interesting. :D

      Hanks is fine in You've Got Mail (need to rewatch that one!) and I cannot say he's a bad actor because he IS good. He's just not a favorite though have you seen his son Colin in anything? He looks JUST like this dad. :) Emma is phenomenal and yes, I agree. I'm sure you'll like this one - cannot wait to hear your thoughts!

  2. I do want to see this but it makes me glad I wanted for the DVD instead of the theater!
    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

    1. Hope you enjoy it, Missie! It's one I suspect I'll like more (and more) each time I see it again. :)

  3. I'm a HUGE fan of Emma Thompson, so this has been on my "want to watch" list since I first heard about it! :D I can't wait!

    1. Emma Thompson is an excellent actress! And as usual, she gave a stellar performance in this, Tammy. Wishing you happy viewing - I think you'll like this one! :)

  4. I finally watched this last week and I enjoyed it so much! Disney + 1960's is pretty much my dream movie right there! lol!

    It seems like most of the recent released movies have a big disappointment for me (like Thor 2, which was so blah), but Saving Mr. Banks lived up to my expectations. The story was good, the soundtrack was fantastic, and it was just all around fun to watch. It was also really nice to see a film from a large Hollywood studio make a movie that wasn't just filled with non-stop action or a crazy anything goes type storyline.

    1. Yay! So pleased you enjoy this one, Sereina. I did too - it was a top-notch film for its era and its cast did right by the story. :)

      LOL, really!? I'm already gushing about Thor in a barely-started review. ;) I thought it was definitely better than the first movie (action, script, acting, really everything "upped" the story), sorry it disappointed you. That IS always a bummer - it's hard when something is hyped and we're excited for it only to walk away feeling let down. I'm glad Saving Mr. Banks wasn't one that falls into that category. Well said, watching something that relies on storytelling rather than action IS a refreshing change; what I like least about the Hollywood scene just know is all of these end-of-world movies. Like, really!? Where is that coming from - although my exception to that is Marvel (I usually see a difference in those vs. say the summer Godzilla film - or whatever that one is called ;D). Love those heroes stepping up to protect the world.

      Glad you stopped by. :)

    2. Can't wait to read your Thor seemed a wee, tiny, itsy-bitsy bit flat in some spots, Loki's super-sass totally made up for it. :D

    3. Yes, I greatly enjoyed Saving Mr. Banks! I've very glad to, as I bought the Blu-ray before even seeing it, which is something I never do! But being the Disney geek that I am, I had done my research and was pretty sure I would love it.

      I think I've watched too many Hallmark movies, as I can barely make it through any action/adventure movies theses days! I've always preferred films focused on characters and storylines instead, but even more so lately.

      Yeah, most people seem to really like Thor 2, but I thought it was strongly lacking in story and character development and was pretty much just an action flick (I feel the same way about Man of Steel which I recently watched!). Plus I felt like we didn't move forward in the Avengers universe storyline, unlike all the past films. It's all cool that you like it, though!

    4. Alexandra - thanks! I'm working on it so it should go up next week. I'll be curious to know more thoughts from all of you. LOL, yes! Loki's and Thor's "big" sequence together made me laugh - though in that same vein, I made a statement in the review that will likely earn a "thumbs down" from ALL of you. ;)

      Sereina - it's so fun to see this movie get recognition because it deserves it. There have been mentions that it was snubbed at the Oscars and it probably was but perhaps if it's inaccurate that was reason why...? I don't know. Either way, this film was excellent.

      Oooh, I adore Hallmark films. They're one of my guilty pleasures for sure. That's okay. Action films aren't for everyone - my aunt rarely watches them as she prefers BBC-like drama. I enjoy a fun superhero flick so to discover Marvel has been my cup of tea. Sometimes I need a movie that doesn't ask me to contemplate every small detail and I've found that in these blockbusters. :)

      Since Man of Steel was an "origins" film (or the re-booting of a franchise), I'm hopeful its second chapter will have more in that way though you're right that Thor definitely lacked in further drawing its characters out. That's something you've made me realize on reflection (thank you!) - I was too busy giggling my way through to pay any mind. ;)

  5. I *loved* Saving Mr. Banks. Mary Poppins is one of the first films I remember, and I've seen it *so* many times. The film was so beautiful, I spent half the time in the theater grinning like an idiot and the other half sobbing. :) Great cast and just gorgeous movie!

    1. You said it beautifully, Alexandra. This one is a stunner (it's a film that has so much heart in a world of cinema that is all about the next big stunt), and I suspect each time I watch it, I'll find something more to draw out of it. The cast, the cinematography, script and just... everything works! Super glad you liked it too. :)

  6. Sounds like a total winner. I can't wait to see it.

    1. I've a great feeling you'll enjoy it, Juju. It really is a lovely film. Happy watching!

  7. We haven't seen this one yet. A friend and I were discussing it and trying to figure out why it was rated PG-13. What was in it that would bump it from PG? I saw you're note about content, but it doesn't seem to be worthy of the rating. I'm just wondering if we should watch it with the kids or not. Any more thoughts on that?

    1. It's really very good, Tressa. As for content, the only thing is really one character's use of alcohol; I cannot remember any language. Not sure what made it be a PG13 aside from it being more of an "adult" movie in general just because it's got more of an "adult theme," instead of being geared towards kids. (I did forget to mention - fail! - that one scene does depict an attempted suicide, though it's not graphic, the person wades out into a body of water with the intention of drowning and a child must save the person.) I don't know how old your kids are, but depending on their age and what they've seen in the past, they may be able to see it but then on the other hand, every family is different so it's hard to know what you like them to see and what you don't. :)

    2. Thanks for the info. I guess they rated it just for subject matter, although it still seems to me more PG than a lot of other PG movies. We'll have to watch it soon as parents and then maybe let the kids watch it afterwards.

    3. I know what you mean, Tressa - some PG movies today, oy! Makes me sad that the rating system is so messed up. And yes, I'd say that's a fair statement. Basically, the film just have some "adult" subject matters though nothing that ever becomes "graphic" by any means. :)

  8. Love everything you said, Rissi! I thought that both Emma Thompson and Colin Farrell were absolutely brilliant in their performances. I think the best movies are the ones make you both laugh and cry and Saving Mr. Banks was like that for me. I'm so glad you wrote a review for it, your reviews are the best!

    1. Emma Thompson is a phenomenal actress and it's funny because my mom and I joke that everything we see Colin in, well, he dies! ;) Love him as an actor too though the last movie we saw him in was a bit on the odd side - it was British, if I remember right.

      Well said! The best movies know the balance between tears and happiness, and while I did find this ending bittersweet, it was a charmer. Thanks for reading, Bekah! I appreciate it very much. :)

  9. I recently saw this, and absolutely LOVED it! Especially the scene where Disney tells his own childhood story and why we tell stories to children in the first place.

    1. Yes, I loved that part as well Natalie! "That's what storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again." Absolutely beautiful.

    2. Natalie, cannot believe I missed your comment! My apologies. :)

      This film is beautiful - and that scene you described... yes! There's a lot of lovely scenes of truth that are... perfect. Glad you liked it too.

      Camille, that IS beautiful.

  10. It's funny, I actually have never been a big fan of the original "Mary Poppins" (I only watched a few times, and Julie Andrews was a bit too stern for my childlike sensibilities), but after watching this, I'd like a look-back to see if I enjoy it more as an adult.
    That said, my adoration for "Saving Mr. Banks" cannot be explained in single comment. It delved into so many fascinating topics.
    *How do you deal with prickly, awful individuals, and even attempt to reach out to them?
    *The use of storytelling as a coping strategy.
    *That it did not gloss over parental imperfections, but at the same time showed their good intentions. And that it reminded us children have an earnest desire to love their parents unconditionally.

    It was a film I felt attempted to turn the hearts of the children to the fathers, and the fathers toward the children, while not ignoring that we are both sinners with failures. A well balanced examination of life's harsh realities verses optimism in spite of it (but without making optimism look foolish).

    I had wanted to see it when it came out, but for some reason didn't get around to it at the time. I'm so glad I finally made the time. It is a beautiful gem.

    On a side note: haha, yes, I always forget that Julie Andrews played Mary Poppins to! Her dark hair and sternness are so different from my favorite Maria Von Trapp. I thought it was funny you mentioned that.

    Thanks for your review Rissi and "happy-summer-so-far." :)

    1. Camille, hello! So delighted you dropped by.

      ...I'm not the biggest fan of Mary Poppins either. It's an okay story, just not great. And after seeing this, I get the impression that Mary's character was sterner in Travers story than how Disney made her. Which is an interesting trivia.

      Love your takeaways for this film. All three of your bulleted points are brilliant; thanks for sharing.

      Flawed as it is, I adored the father-daughter relationship and thought it was emotionally impacting to see Ginty rescue her mother from suicide. Wow. What a heart-wrenching and powerful moment.

      That it is; this is one of the best gems I've seen in a looong time. It might not be something I watch often (because I'm a happy-go-lucky kind of movie watcher), however it's one I will see again. Super glad to know you liked it too - and that you shared your impressions. Enjoyed reading them.

      ...right?? I constantly forget Julie was Mary Poppins. Whenever I see the trailer, I am reminded and usually say, "oh, yeah. Julie was in Mary Poppins too." Guess to me, she'll always be Maria. :)

      Happy Summer to you as well, Camille. Hope you're enjoying a great one.

    2. I agree, the daughter-father relationship was so realistic. He is hurting her, he is hurting his family because of his selfishness, but you know that he loves them. And that is what sin does. We do love our families and friends, but when we let sin into our lives, it affects others negatively.
      And the little girl loves him so much in spite of his failures. She even loves him into her adulthood (which I thought was remarkable and a credit to her, many children (at least the one's I seem to encounter) from this situation grow into adults that are bitter towards the parent). While she was a bitter person, she loved him so much she had created a fantasy story making him perfect, and then was ruthless in it's defense so that her "created" memories of him could stay intact. She did not want to admit his guilt, so she took her anger out on others.

      And yes. That scene with her mother. Terrifying and powerful.

      And the way the director of this film delicately balanced the reality of her anger and "prickliness" while still making you want to root for "her" version of her childhood - was simply brilliant. And, although I've grown up on a steady diet of Disney and have had respect for many of the things he has done as I've grown older, I've never had such a great respect for the way he handled people and understood their basic, precious, childlike desires. Outstanding.

      I keep telling everyone about this movie, but it's so hard to explain. "Well the actual writer of "Mary Poppins" (which I don't really like but you'll like it anyway) was really crabby but Walt Disney did a magnificent job of dealing with her anger to tell her story." People just look at you cross-eyed and say "oh, yeah, I'll try and rent that sometime" as you probably just wonder if you didn't completely turn them off to the story altogether. ;)


    3. Perhaps that IS what makes it the hardest for this family - his selfishness and careless manners with them and their feelings yet hiding underneath his self-destructive attitude, they all know he loves them, which is why it's so hard for them to watch him destroy his life... and in a sense, their own.

      How she grew up still caring for her father was also a sweet albeit interesting dynamic - and her constant support and championing of him during the production was in waves, heartbreaking because as you astutely point out, it was holding her back - she was bitter over life and it was just... sad to watch the adult version of her be stuck in this pattern.

      The production itself was great! Most of the transitions between childhood and adulthood were beautiful, and as you say made us understand or root for the adult her more than we might have without that knowledge.

      You know I read somewhere that Tom Hanks version of Disney isn't who he really was... but I don't really mind if he did take liberties with the character because he played him SO well.

      I get it being difficult to explain this film. It's really worth everyone trying to watch though because underneath the allure of it being about Disney (and the happiest place on earth), there is more to be found in the message and well... as a movie watcher, I love those kind of stories. :)

      As always, fabulous thoughts!

      Happy weekend, Camille!

    4. That's interesting about Tom Hanks, I'll have to look further into that. But I did like the Disney he played, so I'm not too upset about it (like you) :)

    5. As did I, Camille! Whether it's accurate or not, he put a lot of personality into the role, and that's why I loved he and Emma in these roles. :)


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