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Movie Review: Excellent performances set ‘Saving Mr. Banks’ apart


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In John Lee Hancock’s film “Saving Mr. Banks” based on the life of P.L. Traver’s, the author of Mary Poppins, filmmaker Walt Disney tries to obtain the rights to make her book into a movie.

After 20 years of trial and error he finally meets with Travers to discuss the logistics of taking a story that is near and dear to her heart and adapting it to the big screen.

Emma Thompson, who plays Travers, does a remarkable job of being “delightfully” unpleasant. We learn along the way that Travers has every right to be as we begin to understand more about her childhood and how she grew up.

From her facial expressions to her spaced out moments where she flashes back to her past, the emotions were written in her eyes and played out noticeably through her aggressive attitude toward supporting actors Paul Giamatti, B.J. Novak, Bradley Whitford, Jason Schwartzman, and Tom Hanks.

Hanks, who plays Walt Disney, did not outshine Thompson in her performance as the leading lady but contributed to the film’s ambience by his character bringing hope, encouragement and creativity to the scenes.

Colin Farrell, who plays Travers Goff aka “Mr. Banks” in Mary Poppins did an outstanding job of being the loving father turned troubled alcoholic. Watching him struggle with his addiction and try to save his relationship with his daughter P.L. Travers, pulled at people’s heart strings.

Throughout the film Travers struggles to find herself by reliving the memories of her past. She is skeptical of Disney and his writers’ intentions but eventually understands that they do not want to tarnish her story just to make a profit, but to realize what’s been written on paper and to shine a more positive light on it.

The camera work in this film lived up to the story in that everything was done with fluidity and had an underlying message. There were two scenes that stood out to me.

There is an opening scene were P.L. Travers is day dreaming about her childhood as she sits in her office at home. There is a medium shot of a young Ms. Travers, played by Annie Rose Buckley, sitting in the grass with her arms crossed and her eyes closed looking up at the sky. The camera eases out and the scene fades to white. The camera now at a high angle, tilts down to an older Ms. Travers sitting in the same position at her desk. It summarized the entire film just in that sequence. Even as an older woman, she is still able to use her imagination and revert to her child like state of mind.

There was another scene where a young Ms. Travers is standing at the back of the train as her and her family move out of the city. An over the shoulder shot eases in and then cuts to a medium shot of Ms. Travers looking out at the train tracks and the countryside. There is an eye-line match cut of the train tracks, then a long shot of her looking into the distance as the camera zooms in on her.  The fluidity of the camera movements and transitions made this scene seem endless which accentuated the fact that this train ride would be a never ending journey for her and her family. The inward movement of the camera simulated moving forward from the past and starting a new journey for the future.

Thomas Newman never disappoints when it comes to scoring music for some of the most recognizable film soundtracks in Hollywood whether it be “Shawshank Redemption,” “American Beauty,” or “Cinderella Man.” Newman’s magical, light and upbeat composition in “Saving Mr. Banks” depicted everything that is Walt Disney himself.

Playful, imaginative, and full of wit and emotions, this piece glorifies what this film is all about while still keeping true to the hardships faced by P.L. Travers with the use of long drawn out brass horns, strings and a mellow overlay of piano.

“Saving Mr. Banks” is not just a biography but also a drama and comedy wrapped into one. This film will make you laugh and cry. I gave it a 9/10 for its acting performances, screenwriting and overall aesthetics. It is a great film for adults and young people who want to know the real story behind the cult classic film, Mary Poppins.

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