Director: John Lee Hancock
Thompson and Hanks sparkle in these roles. Hanks’ portrayal of the energetic and optimistic Walt Disney is uncanny, but the show really belongs to Thompson, whose acerbic blunt wit gallops through some delightfully fun dialogue. Mrs Travers is fiercely protective of Mary Poppins, the character she has nurtured and protected her whole life, and she is determined not to let her creation be bastardised by a man whose vision she is entirely unimpressed by. She sees Disney as a greedy entrepreneur who just wants to devour Mary Poppins and add her to his vast cannon, swallowing her up whole just to stand alongside Mickey, Snow White and Tinkerbell. For Travers, Mary Poppins stands for so much more than a simple children’s story. And so begins a battle of wits between the two.
Saving Mr. Banks is like a funny Finding Neverland. Despite the latter’s Oscar success, this isn’t really a compliment. I have a problem with most biopics and true stories on film, because unlike a carefully crafted piece of fiction, real life rarely follows a narrative structure that makes for a pleasing film. Saving Mr Banks is a rare example of where, structurally, there is a good story to tell, but its focus on the past muddies it up and makes it lose focus. We’re watching two films, barely stuck together with sloppy PVA glue. The film isn’t a biopic, so it shouldn’t try to be. And while the Oscars will clearly embrace this film across the board come March next year (they love a film about filmmaking), it left me cold. I could see the joins, I watched the director lay out his emotional signposts and the laboured mechanism of this clunky film left me watching its emotional conclusion nonplussed and completely ambivalent.