Movie review: A ground-floor view in “Saving Mr. Banks”

Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson in "Saving Mr. Banks."

Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson in “Saving Mr. Banks.”

By Sarah Cooperman, E Pluribus Unum

Like most young girls growing up in America (or for that matter, anywhere in the Western World), I thrilled to the adventures of women in the world of Disney.  While the heroines were not always all that heroic, it was difficult to resist the temptation of imagining yourself a rescued princess.

But only Disney classic I never was attracted to was “Mary Poppins,” a live-action movie about a flying nanny and a bunch of ninny songs. No, thanks.  Too much sugar is something I gag on.

However, after seeing “Saving Mr. Banks,” the new film starring Tom Hanks (as Walt Disney), Emma Thompson (P.L. Travers, the author of the “Poppins” books) and Colin Farrell (Travers Robert Goff), I think I will hunt up a copy of that long-shunned movie.

“Banks” is the story – and backstory – of the making of “Poppins” into a film.  Reportedly, it took over 20 years of cajoling by Walt to get Travers to finally agree, grudgingly, to sell the rights to the story along as she had final say over the script.

The film artfully cuts back and forth between the negotiating and grumbling in Los Angeles over the movie and real-life events in England and Australia which inspired the tales.  Thompson, one of our finest actresses, embodies a conflicted, lonely and secretive character that resists – or tries to – the cheerful efforts of Disney to get her to agree to the making of a successful movie.

Hanks, for his part, is clearly back on track after a series of mediocre films.  His personification of Disney, combined with his work in “Captain Phillips,” is showing a new maturity and range that seemed to be missing for a while.

Farrell portrays a lovable but too-often inebriated father whose bond with his daughter Ginty (Anne Rose Buckley) is both touching and tragic.

I don’t want to give away too much, but this is a very well done and gentle film about the power of story-telling to improve our lives and break down barriers.

Sarah’s score: A-.



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