Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

Directed by John Lee Hancock
Written by Kelly Marcel & Sue Smith

A funeral is a celebration. It’s true. Most people dread a funeral, are quite sad at funerals, and with good reason, but the reason why we have them is to celebrate the lives of those passed, not to mourn their death. While the death of a loved one may leave us empty, missing something from our lives, incredibly sad for a time, the main reason we feel this way is for the great times, and the love, in which we shared with those who have died. Those are the things that should be celebrated. Everyone goes through tough times, makes mistakes, but when it all comes to an end we remember the good. While we may be sad they are gone from our lives, we ought to also be happy that our life was able to be even a little part of theirs.

Saving Mr. Banks may be an odd title for this film for all those not familiar with the classic Disney film Mary Poppins. Poppins was a struggle for Disney (Tom Hanks) to make. It was his lifelong desire to adapt the novels, whose author, P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) was deadset against it. They both had their reasons, but when Disney brought Travers out of her London flat and over to California to run through the scripting process, Travers heart begins to soften and she soon remembers what it was that makes Mary Poppins so special not just to her, but how special she could be if she shared her with Disney, and allowed him to share her with his audiences.

John Lee Hancock steadily crafts a film that lives up perfectly to the level of Disney sentiment that has come to be expected of the studio. For those who have never warmed to the type of saccharine sentiment that Disney often offers its audiences, then Banks will likely not change your mind, but the story being told here is strong in its delivery and even stronger in its heart. Hancock seems the perfect fit for a story like this. I’ve often thought him comparable to the likes of Chris Columbus, the type of director who delivers strong, family friendly films without much in the way of flourish or error. Groundbreaking, life changing the film is not, but what a wonderful thing to spend a few hours with

The real strength comes from its actors, Hanks and Thompson in particular, who deliver wonderful displays of passion. I can’t quite imagine another actor capable of pulling off Walt Disney than Hanks himself. His persona matches that of Walt perfectly, and his charisma is unmatched. They both have managed to bring happiness to many with their art. Thompson on the other hand is downright phenomenal. Phenomenal. The rest of the cast is a joy as well, with heartfelt deliveries from Paul Giamatti as the chauffer, and Colin Ferrell as Travers Goff, the real life father of P.L. Travers. A story such as this is best delivered through those behind it, the characters, the wonderful ensemble cast.

The film’s ability to intercut between two separate timelines may not always maintain the flow we would like from a masterpiece film, but it affords Hancock the chance to communicate his story effectively enough. The strong elements of love and happiness, and most importantly of forgiveness speak to the notion that anybody being perfect is an unattainable goal. Many people are deeply flawed, but that should never take away from the love that is indeed shared. We can have it both ways. So while Travers’ father was an irresponsible man, he was still a deeply loving father. The conversation held near the conclusion of the film reveals the imperfections, the trials and tribulations of a great man and a great woman. But it also supports the reality that happiness can shine through with the self-expression of joy, and in sharing that joy with others.

***1/2 – Great

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