Saving Mr. Banks

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Emma Thompson listened to actual recordings of the Disney creative team’s sessions with P.L. Travers in order to prepare for her role and described the experience as “like being poked in the ear with hot forks!”. To say the author of the Mary Poppins books was abrasive is an understatement, but her disparaging antics and quick wit were hilarious to watch. Describing Los Angeles as smelling of “chlorine and sweat”? Priceless! Thompson nails her personality but also shows there was a reason for her prickly exterior and the movie does a beautiful job showing how she poured her painful past into her books. If you’ve read the Mary Poppins books, you know they are actually quite dark, so I can see why the tinkly sweetness of most Disney movies would have revolted the author. “I know what he’s going to do to her. She’ll be cavorting, and twinkling, careening towards a happy ending like a kamikaze.” Tom Hanks is spot on as Walt Disney, who was actually a relative of Hanks, and he’s mastered Disney’s characteristic drawling speech. I’m so glad Hanks fought for authenticity in depicting that Disney really did smoke but was ashamed of his habit, despite the objections the studio raised about including an image of the company’s founder that runs counter to the Disney brand. While the pugnacious exchanges between Travers and Disney are great, it’s the interactions between Travers and the chauffeur, played by Paul Giamatti, that really deserve accolades.  Their tacit affinity for one another and quiet understanding is really something to see.  This is a gentle introspective sort of movie with real class and much of the action is of an internal nature. Bittersweet, enchanting, haunting and unbelievably funny, I absolutely loved it, but be warned, this will get all the songs from Mary Poppins thoroughly stuck in your head. Now where did I leave my kite …. ?  – BETHANY

              Walt Disney tries to win over the reluctant P.L. Travers

Disney (Hanks) charming the crowds at the park but Travers (Thompson) remains unmoved.

Paul Giamatti as Ralph, Chauffeur Extraordinaire

“Welcome, Mrs. P.L. Travers, to the city of angels.”                                                    “It smells… of… ”                                                                                                  “Jasmine?”                                                                                                                  “Chlorine, and sweat.”

                  See the family resemblance?

Left to right: (B.J. Novak, Jason Schwartzman, Bradley Whitford, Melanie Paxson, Emma Thompson) The Disney production team of Robert Sherman, Richard Sherman, Don DaGradi and Dolly, nervously await approval or scathing denunciation by Pamela.

Young Pamela and her father, played by Colin Farrell.

The real life inspiration for Mary Poppins (as portrayed in a movie, so obviously not the real, real person).

Photos courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures, BBC Films, Essential Media Entertainment, Ruby Films, Hopscotch Features and Walt Disney Studios

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