Directed by John Lee Hancock
Written by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith
Starring: Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Colin Farrell, Annie Rose Buckley, Ruth Wilson, Paul Giametti, Bradley Whitford, B.J. Novak, Jason Schwartzman, Kathy Baker, Melanie Paxson
Based on true events, Saving Mr Banks tells a tale of how Walt Disney persuaded straight-laced author P.L. Travers to let go of her beloved books about a semi-fictitious nanny so he could make the now mythically successful movie Mary Poppins.
Set in the early 1960s, Disney (Tom Hanks) has worked on getting the rights to Mary Poppins for 20 years with little result. He finally flies Travers (Emma Thompson ) from her London home to Los Angeles to show her how he wants to make her books into a movie.
She must give Disney the rights to the books before he can really move forward, so he is willing to try everything to get her to sign the necessary papers.
Travers wants none of it for her own reasons — her childhood in Australia — which is beautifully shown in flashback.
She snaps at her driver (Paul Giametti) as he drives her to the Disney studios and she wants nothing to do with the jovial Disney, his staff (Kathy Baker and Melanie Paxson), screenwriter Don DeGradi (Bradley Whitford) and musicians Robert and Richard Sherman (B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman).
Things don’t go well, and she keeps drifting back to her childhood, where her father, Travers Goff (Colin Farrell) shares wonderful fantasies with her beloved daughter Ginty (Annie Rose Buckley), while hiding his chronic illness and alcoholism. He moves his family across Australia to keep a job.
The stoic Travers is ever-so-slowly won over by the ever-cheerful people at Disney and by the low-key charm of her driver.
The problem with everything is Mr. Banks, the father in the book, the genesis of the title, Saving Mr. Banks.
Hanks does a wonderful job playing the 20th Century Magic Man Walt Disney. He uses his own Midwestern roots well to give a glimpse of the man behind the mouse.
Thompson shines as Travers, who must come to terms with her past before she can part with the books she wrote based on real incidents in her life.
Giametti nearly steals the show with his soft-spoken wisdom and secret sorrow..
Director John Lee Hancock deftly weaves all these stories into one enjoyable movie, especially when Mary Poppins takes off.
If you grew up with the movie, you’ll delight in seeing how “Spoonful of Sugar” and “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” are created by the Shermans and seeing Travers slowly unwind.
Saving Mr. Banks isn’t a movie for children. That movie is Mary Poppins. This is one for grownups who remember the magic of Disney and seeing the magic he made on a continual basis. You’ll be glad you did.