“I know what he’s going to do to her. She’ll be cavorting, and twinkling.”
As the film open with an elegiac piano rendition of Chim-Chim-Cher-ee accompanying a softly spoken lyric of the song, it immediately pulls me into a nostalgic mood. Thus begin a historical, biopic that depict the process of creating one of Disney’s classic Mary Poppins, which celebrates its 50th Anniversary at the time the film is released. I, for one, never know the musical film is an adaptation of a children book. But i always excited to see an ode to the magic of cinema in current films, much like Argo (2012), Hugo (2011), and The Artist (2011).
Saving Mr Banks is split between 1960s Los Angeles and turn-of-the-century Australia. In 1961, Pamela ‘P.L.’ Travers (Emma Thompson) reluctantly went to Los Angeles meet with Walt Disney (Tom Hanks). After 20 years of pursuit, to discuss the rights to adapting her beloved work, Mary Poppins, mostly due to financial need. A journey that unexpectedly become a personal one, when she was reminded of her past as a little girl formerly known as Helen Goff aka Ginty (Annie Rose Buckley) and her father Travers Goff (Colin Farrell).
The film thrives on sentimentality and emotionally infectious, something did not expect the initial premise of a story behind the book-to-screen adaptation, aside from the expected nostalgia from the Mary Poppins elements. The film did not focus too much on the film-making aspect and the rehearsals, but rather infuse it with a personal journey of Pamela Travers to overcome the past that constantly haunts her. I love the subtlety of the connection between her traumatic past to her rigid present self (‘absolutely no pears!’ or her dislike of red). Although the scene of the past and the present felt so disjointed that it feels like i’m watching a separate films, instead of constructing a stronger impact on each other.
The formulaic and somewhat expected story (as soon as you saw where this is going), was remedied by the gorgeous picture courtesy of d.o.p John Schawrtzman. The cast are terrific. Headlined by an excellent performance of Emma Thompson in her rigid, clipped, disapproving manner. Hanks balances her performance as the first ever portrayal of Walt Disney in mainstream media, speaking in a midwestern dialect, showing the charming charisma of the man behind the mouse. The supporting actors are solid, Paul Giamatti is as entertaining as Collin Ferrell’s heart-wrenching one. The film is supported by good production and wardrobe design to make sure the authenticity of both era.
Gorgeously shot, wonderfully acted, albeit somehow unexpectedly, falsely advertised yet come as a heartwarming surprise. The film generate an Oscar buzz but felt more like an Oscar bait. I won’t be surprise if it did not win anything at the race. It’s still a crowd pleaser though. The film ended towards a more Disney-esque sacharine happy ending, definitely emotional monger with more than a spoonful of sugar.
SAVING MR. BANKS (2013)
GENRE Historical, Biopic, Drama, Comedy
DIRECTOR John Lee Hancock | PRODUCER Alison Owen, Ian Collie, Phillip Steuer | WRITER Kelly Marcel, Sue Smith | MUSIC Thomas Newman | CINEMATOGRAPHER John Schwartzman | EDITOR Mark Livolsi | STUDIO Walt Disney Pictures, BBC Films, Essential Media, Ruby Films, Hopscotch Features | DISTRIBUTOR Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures | COUNTRY United Kingdom, United States, Australia | RUNNING TIME 125 minutes | BUDGET $35 Million | RATING PG-13 for some thematic elements including some unsettling images | RELEASE December 13, 2013
STARRING Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Paul Giamatti, Jason Schwartzman, Bradley Whitford, Colin Ferrell, Ruth Wilson, B.J. Novak, Jason Schwartzman, Kathy Barker, Rachel Griffith, Melanie Paxson, Annie Rose Buckley
DID YOU KNOW? Walt Disney was not involved in the conception of this biopic. The executives discussed the studio’s potential choices; purchase the script and shut the production down, put the film in turnaround, or co-produce the film themselves. Disney CEO Bob Iger approved the film and subsequently contacted Tom Hanks to consider playing the role of Walt Disney, which would become the first ever depiction of Disney in a mainstream film. Disney did not edit or interfere towards the film creative production, only asking to omit any on-screen smoking, due to Disney’s policy of not directly depicting smoking in films issued under the Disney banner and to avoid an R rating from the MPAA.