Saving Mr. Banks

Saving Mr. Banks
Directed by John Lee Hancock
Starring Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti, B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman
In UK Cinemas Friday November 29th, 2013

by Ruth Thomson

It’s 1961 and Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) is at the height of his power, ruling over an empire of smiling employees and adored animated characters in his films and theme park. One person he’s struggling to charm is the frosty Mrs. P.L Travers, the Australian-born English author of the Mary Poppins children’s books. Travers (Emma Thompson) is contemplating selling him the rights to her beloved character but has exacting standards as to what’s in and what’s out – there must be no animation, no colour red, no made up words, no silly songs, and why on earth does Mr. Banks have a moustache?!? From the moment Mrs. Travers arrives distastefully in the City of Angels (‘smells like chlorine, and sweat’) Walt and the songwriting Sherman brothers (Jason Schwartzmann and B.J. Novak) have their work cut out for them.

The film jumps between this Hollywood clash of cultures, sparkling vividly in Disneyesque techni-colour with a vibrant period score by Thomas Newman, and sparser flashback sequences of her rural childhood in Australia and her loving but flawed father (Colin Farrell) which serve to slowly hint at the true inspiration behind her stories.

Hanks and especially Thompson are terrific and very funny in their portrayal of two diametrically opposed dynamos very much used to getting their own way with Thompson getting the lions share of the good lines – her eye rolling disgust on arrival in a hotel room stuffed with cuddly toys itself speaks volumes. And there’s nice supporting performances from Paul Giamatti at his hangdog best and The West Wing’s Bradley Whitford. But another true star of the film is 1960s L.A, or at least Walt Disney’s bit of it – the style, design, sets, costume and cinematography all colourfully evoke that bygone and intoxicating age of the Hollywood Studio.

With the exception of some slightly laborious scenes in the flashback sequences, this is a masterful piece of family entertainment – sprinkled with so many spoonfuls of sugar (including a particularly nice one over the closing credits), that surely Walt himself would approve.  Mrs. Travers on the other hand…

Colin Farrell, Emma Thompson & Tom Hanks

Hilarious highlights from the Saving Mr. Banks press conference.

Leave a Reply