Eye For Film >> Movies >> Saving Mr. Banks (2013) Film Review
Saving Mr. Banks
Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson
Part-way through John Lee Hancock's film about the relationship between Mary Poppins author PL Travers and Walt Disney, composers the Sherman brothers (Jason Schwarzman as Richard, BJ Novak as Robert) decide that the way to make A Spoonful Of Sugar more catchy is to write the tune so the note goes up on the word 'down'. It could be a metaphor for the entire movie which, in keeping with so much of Disney's output, fiercely puts the emphasis on the upbeat. Even the perma-hangdog Paul Giamatti has been transformed into an ever-smiling, sunny-side-up chauffeur.
The end result, though well-mounted and featuring knock-the-soot-out-of-your-chimney performances from Emma Thompson as Travers and Tom Hanks as the movie mogul, feels more like a Disney theme park version of events than the real story. This sense of unreality is heightened by the decision to include the story of Travers' childhood in flashback alongside the tale of Disney's battle to persuade her to let him have the film rights.
Back in the Australia of 1906, Travers was plain Ginty Goff (Annie Rose Buckley), a little girl with a big imagination that was fuelled by her father Robert (Colin Farrell) on the days when he hadn't had too much of the sauce. This section, which sees Robert's drinking lead to the sudden relocation of his family to the middle of nowhere, is intended to show the origins of Mary Poppins and, particularly, Mr Banks, but despite decent performances here, too, it feels more fairytale than fact. Everything in Ginty's environment seems so scrubbed up that her house looks more like a set than a setting and the story of what happens to her and her father holds little in the way of surprise.
More interesting is the sparky friction between Travers and Disney but even this feels stifled by a layer of romanticism. Writers Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith give Travers all the best lines - the moment when she walks into her merchandise stuffed bedroom and picks up a Winnie The Pooh toy with the words "Poor AA Milne" is a classic - and Thompson delivers them with a clipped finesse. Still, it seems that Disney is always half way to charming her and the constant trips down Aussie memory lane suck the pace from the story. It's not that the true story of Travers and Disney is so much less jovial than that presented here - after all, this is a fiction film not a documentary - but the fact that it feels manufactured and over-polished to the point where it is the sugar not the story which sticks to your brain.Reviewed on: 02 Dec 2013