Saving Mr. Banks is based on the writer of the Mary Poppins books, P.L. Travers, and her fraught relationship with Disney and his desire to adapt it into a film. As you might expect from a film starring both Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, it’s faultless when it comes to performance. In the final credits of the film, a tape is played of the real P.L. Travers in conversation with the screenwriters, and you can hear that Emma Thompson absolutely nailed the voice, even down to the slightest intonation. Colin Farrell also performs well as Travers’s alcoholic father alongside Annie Rose Buckley, who plays the young P.L. Travers.
As much as I absolutely loved the emotional depth of the film, if you’re looking for an accurate account of what happened, this isn’t it. Disney’s involvement in the adaptation is portrayed as a totally innocent and optimistic artistic endeavour, which Travers unreasonably resists. Although evidence suggests that she was uncompromising, Disney’s consistent benevolence seems unlikely. The film seems to be forgetting that Disney was a shrewd businessman, running a corporation who sought to make a profit. Walt Disney’s genius lay in his ability to help other people realise their potential, and capture the imagination of children, and this was portrayed brilliantly by Tom Hanks. However, the darker side of his personality wasn’t explored or even alluded to in the film, and I think this characterisation is a naive one, although it serves the purposes of the film.
Overall, I think that Saving Mr. Banks is a brilliant film, particularly for somebody interested in the way that an author’s experiences might shape their writing, or indeed in general how anyone’s early experiences shape their habits and behaviours in their later life. It’s definitely one to see if you’ve been feeling less than magical lately and want to rediscover the power of imagination. Surely we’re all in need of a bit of that?
by Kate Ferguson