Thursday, May 8, 2014

Review: Emma Thompson Saves "Saving Mr. Banks"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 21 (of 2014) by Leroy Douresseaux

Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
Running time:  125 minutes (2 hours, 5 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for thematic elements including some unsettling images
DIRECTOR:  John Lee Hancock
WRITERS:  Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith
PRODUCERS:  Ian Collie, Alison Owen, and Philip Steuer
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  John Schwartzman (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Mark Livolsi
COMPOSER:  Thomas Newman
Academy Award nominee

DRAMA/HISTORICAL with elements of a biopic and comedy

Starring:  Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Annie Rose Buckley, Colin Farrell, Ruth Wilson, Paul Giamatti, Bradley Whitford, B.J. Novak, Jason Schwartzman, Lily Bigham, Melanie Paxson, Ronan Vibert, Rachel Griffiths, and Kathy Baker

Saving Mr. Banks is a 2013 drama from director John Lee Hancock and is an American, British, and Australian co-production.  The film is a fictional account of author P.L. Travers’ trip to America, as she considers selling the film rights to her Mary Poppins books to Walt Disney.

Walt Disney is really a supporting character in Saving Mr. Banks, as the movie focuses on Travers as she reflects on her childhood and on her relationship with her troubled father.  The parts of the film that focus on Travers’ childhood are melancholy.  The parts of the film that take place in the film’s present (1961) are lively and colorful, and I wish all of the movie were set at Walt Disney Studios.

The film opens in the year 1961 in London, where it finds author, Pamela “P.L.” Travers (Emma Thompson), experiencing financial troubles.  Travers does have a way out of her money woes.  She can sell the film rights to her Mary Poppins books to Walt Disney (Tom Hanks), who has been pursuing Travers for the rights to the books for 20 years.  Travers travels to Los Angeles, where she is whisked to the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank.

In America, Travers meets a kind limo driver, Ralph (Paul Giamatti). She meets Mr. Disney.  She meets the creative team assigned to adapt Mary Poppins to the screen:  screenwriter, Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford); and musical composing brothers, Richard and Robert Sherman (Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak, respectively).  For two weeks, Travers plans on working with the team to get Mary right – at she sees it.

However, everything about her Mary Poppins book may be too personal for her to accept anyone else’s vision of Mary Poppins, especially Walt Disney’s version of Mary Poppins.  As she works on the film, Travers’ mind goes back to her life in Australia as a girl (Annie Rose Buckley) and she recollects her relationship with her troubled father (Colin Farrell).

I have to admit that I like Saving Mr. Banks because of its fanciful and real-life complication-free look at Walt Disney, his employees, and life at Walt Disney Studios.

I will grant that Emma Thompson gives a fantastic performance, one that is worthy of the Oscar nomination Thompson did not receive.  I will also grant that the story of Travers’ past is heartbreaking and fairly well-executed by director John Lee Hancock and his collaborators.  I will finally admit that I don’t think Hanks deserved an Oscar nomination for his performance as Walt Disney, especially not as a lead actor.  His Disney is clearly a supporting character in this story… and this is not close to being one of Hanks’ better or memorable performances.

Mostly, I think Saving Mr. Banks is a soapy television movie with big name actors trying to be a prestige motion picture.  I think the film sometimes portrays P.L. Travers as a contrary old kook and also glosses over her legitimate concerns about how her characters will be translated to film.  After all, she clearly knew that more people would see a Mary Poppins movie than would ever read her Mary Poppins books.  Because of that, many people would know Mary Poppins only through the film, so she had right to be concerned that the screen Mary Poppins be as close as possible to her Mary Poppins.

After all that granting, I am back to what I like about this movie. Saving Mr. Banks presents a… well… Disney-fied version of some of the events surrounding the production of the 1964 Mary Poppins film.  That is okay by me, but I realize that there is much more to the real story than is in Saving Mr. Banks.

6 of 10

Monday, May 05, 2014

2014 Academy Awards:  1 nomination: “Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score” (Thomas Newman)

2010 Golden Globe:  1 nomination: “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Emma Thompson)

2014 BAFTA Awards:  5 nominations:  “Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film” (John Lee Hancock, Alison Owen, Ian Collie, Philip Steuer, Kelly Marcel, and Sue Smith), “Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music” (Thomas Newman), “Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer” (Kelly Marcel), “Best Leading Actress” (Emma Thompson), and “Best Costume Design” (Daniel Orlandi)

The text is copyright © 2014 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.


No comments:

Post a Comment