(Warning: This post contains spoilers about the movie Saving Mr. Banks. If you absolutely hate to be spoiled, you may not want to read this. However, if you want fair warning about the subject matter of this film; read on, dear reader!)
I love watching movies, but I have certain requirements for choosing a film. They can’t feature violence or gratuitous sex scenes. They can’t show any harm to animals or children, and their number one requirement is that they can’t be sad.
I should have known what I was getting myself into when my daughter suggested the Disney film, Saving Mr. Banks. I should have done my research. I should have, at the least, read the blurb on the back of the movie cover. I should have remembered that in just about every damn Disney movie that something happens to at least one of the parents. Even cute little clown fish lose their fathers and, despite marrying into royalty, most twinkling Disney princesses walk down the aisle without the help of their happily sniffling mothers. Research could have saved me two days of puffy eyes.
Saving Mr. Banks is the story of Walt Disney’s quest for procurement of the rights to P. L. Travers’ Mary Poppins characters and storyline. After 20 years of being badgered by Disney (Tom Hanks), Travers’ (Emma Thompson) finds herself in financial trouble. Her need for money convinces her to travel to Las Angeles for two weeks to observe Disney’s plans for the adaptation. Hoping for Travers’ approval, Disney does his best to impress Travers with creative characterization, catchy songs and pampering from the Disney staff. Instead of being impressed, pompous and downright grumpy Travers meets nearly every idea with criticism and the refusal to sign over the rights to her beloved characters.
Doesn’t really sound like that much of a tearjerker yet, does it? That’s because I haven’t told you about the flashback scenes. These are the unbelievably depressing extracts that will have you rushing for the Kleenex. It turns out that Travers is tortured by the memories of her heartbreaking childhood. Her charming and doting father (Colin Farrell) is an irresponsible bank manager and deeply failing alcoholic. Her overwhelmed mother spends most of her time staring off into space and contemplating her own demise. After her father’s approaching death becomes apparent, and her mother’s suicide attempt, Travers’ carpetbag-toting and parrot-head-umbrella-owning aunt, Helen Morehead, is summoned to stay with them. Morehead, Travers’ obvious model for Mary Poppins, makes life more bearable for the family. However, she can’t prevent the untimely death of Travers’ father. This something that Travers’ is never able to come to terms with.
I won’t go into further details, in consideration to those of you with brave constitutions who can manage to watch a sweet, young girl lose her beloved father. I will tell you that after a bit of research on Travers’ real life, I found that the movie’s ending is far from the nicely packaged Disney version. I am impressed with the juxtaposition of a woman, with such a miserable childhood and flawed life, managing to write stories that have brought joy to the most innocent for decades, but life is full of little contrasts and ironies.
So, dear readers, as a final review, I give Saving Mr. Banks two thumbs up for the exceptional acting and screenplay. (Who doesn’t love Emma Thompson?) I bestow one upwardly raised thumb and one downward for its less than factual ending, and two thumbs solidly down for the whole thing making me cry.
If you would like to read more about this film, here are some links (Warning all contain many spoilers):