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Saving Mr. Banks – a Review

The making of a movie about the making of a movie – especially one as iconic as Mary Poppins –  is a tricky endeavor. Fortunately for director John Lee Hancock and the wonderful cast, led by Emma Thompson as author P.L. Travers, the movie Saving Mr. Banks works beautifully. The film integrates the story of Travers’ childhood  with the difficult task Walt Disney (played by Tom Hanks) and his team had of convincing her to sign over the rights to her book so Mary Poppins could be made.

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My daughter took me to a screening of the film at an event put on by The Los Angeles Times’ The Envelope which included  a Q & A with some of the cast, including Hancock, Hanks, Thompson, Colin Farrell (playing the young P.L. Travers’ father), B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman (as the Sherman brothers – composers of the film’s songs) and Bradley Whitford (Mary Poppins screenwriter Don DeGradi). Hancock explained how integral the L.A. setting was to the success of the film, with scenes on both the Disney lot and at Disneyland. I agree that filming in L.A. was key. In scenes where Travers is driven to the studio and comes over the mountains into the San Fernando Valley, her driver Ralph (played by Paul Giamatti) comments on how beautiful the view is, and through his eyes we see the magic of Los Angeles in particular and the film business overall.

As Disney and his team work to convince Travers that their plans for a film will work (No animation! she cries. Mary Poppins doesn’t sing! she says), we see the Sherman Brothers testing out their songs and, along with DeGradi, acting out some of the scenes for Travers. It’s an effective way of weaving the creation of Mary Poppins into the story, giving us a glimpse into the long, hard process of making a movie – especially a musical.

This movie is lovely – a tearjerker with a sense of humor that any fan of Mary Poppins will enjoy. It brings to life P.L. Travers’ childhood and how much it mattered to the story of Mary Poppins. Thompson mentioned during the Q & A that P.L. Travers never liked the movie – but the rest of the world fell in love with Mary Poppins, the Banks family, and the magic of Mary Poppins. Be sure to pay attention during the sequences of Travers’ childhood to the references to the future stories of Mary Poppins – whether true or not (Uncle Albert), they add fun little winks to the film.

Don’t miss Saving Mr. Banks this holiday season.

Sharon Greenthal

Sharon's blog, Empty House Full Mind, focuses on observations of the world from the midlife empty nest. Sharon is the Young Adults Expert on Sharon writes for the Huffington Post and Purple Clover. Sharon is the mother of two grown children - a daughter, 26 and a son, 24. She lives in Long Beach, CA with her husband and their perfect dog, Lambeau. Instagram: sharongreenthal

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Pamela Lutrell

Monday 9th of December 2013

Thanks for the review, Sharon! I cannot wait to see it!


Monday 9th of December 2013

What a treat to sit with the Q&A! I loved Mary Poppins and am looking forward to this movie.

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