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Posts Tagged ‘Saving Mr. Banks’
Based on the true story of Walt Disney’s (Tom Hanks) attempts to convince cantankerous “Mary Poppins” author P.L. Travers (Emma Tompson) to sell him the movie rights to the story, “Saving Mr. Banks” may be the only documented case of a writer holding an entire studio hostage.
Walt Disney made a promise to his daughter that would take twenty years to fulfill.
The young girl loved the magical nanny Mary Poppins, and wanted her father to bring her to life on the big screen. Trouble was, writer P.L. Travers wanted nothing to do with Disney.
“These books,” she said, “don’t lend themselves to chirping and prancing.” Fearing his adaptation of Poppins would careen “toward a happy ending like a kamikaze,” she tried to explain that Mary was the “enemy of whimsy and sentiment.”
Still, Disney wouldn’t take no for an answer and that’s where “Saving Mr. Banks” begins.
In a last ditch attempt to woo her, Disney flies Travers to Hollywood to work on a script with songwriters Richard and Robert Sherman (Jason Schwartzman and B. J. Novak) and screenwriter Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford). The idea is to shape a movie that everyone can live with, but Travers, a pinched women whose withering remarks leave welts, is uncooperative.
(Side note: If she really was this contrary in real life, one has to wonder how the controlling Travers would have felt about having her actual life portrayed one screen.)
As the movie unfolds a psychological drama reveals itself in the form of flashbacks to Travers’s life as a child in 1907 Queensland, Australia. Turns out her contrary nature with the filmmakers comes from a deep seeded desire to protect the memory of her father, bank manager Travers Goff (Colin Farrell), a loveable scamp who drowned his inner torment with a sea of booze, and was the inspiration for the “Mary Poppins’s” patriarch, Mr. Banks.
“Saving Mr. Banks” is a serious movie about a whimsical movie. It also has darker underpinnings than you might imagine about the origins of “Mary Poppins.” The glossy Disney sheen casts its glow but the tone of the film is downbeat. Travers is a tough cookie, but heartbreakingly so. She’s a little girl lost, the product of an unhappy childhood that haunts her into adulthood.
It’s a character that could have been a flat line, a portrait of an unhappy woman with a perm-scowl and a bad attitude, but as Thompson allows her icy façade to melt Travers takes on dimensions. By the time we realize that Mary Poppins is not there to save the children but the troubled father the movie starts to pluck the heartstrings but because of Thompson’s skill it doesn’t feel manipulative.
Hanks is effortless as the folksy Disney. He hands in a quiet but lovingly rendered portrait with some real heart and lots of nuggets of wisdom.
Ditto Schwartzman and Novak, who breathe life into the creative process with enthusiastic performances and Paul Giamatti as limo driver Ralph. It’s a supporting role that doesn’t forward the story much but does add some nice light moments that seem to blunt some of Travers’s more deeply set psychological issues.
On the minus side “Saving Mr. Banks” hopscotches between time zones in Hollywood and Australia, a contrivance that slows both stories down, dividing the focus and keeping the audience off kilter for the entire running time. It’s a tough balance and the film doesn’t quite pull it off, but makes the uniformly excellent performances to cover the movie’s languid pacing.
Synopsis: The last couple of weeks have offered up the odd little treat at the movies, like an amuse-bouche to get our taste buds primed for the tastier stuff to follow in December. Not only does the 12th month give us Christmas, Boxing Day, Kwanzaa and New Year’s Eve, we also get a delicious buffet of great movies. This week the Reel Guys look ahead to the 31 days that sate our appetite for great movies while feeding the voraciously hungry Oscars.
Richard: Mark, people complain that trailers give away too much of the story, but one upcoming movie has been releasing trailer after trailer — usually not a good sign — and has yet to reveal itself. Apparently The Wolf of Wall Street, directed by Scorsese (do I have to write his first name? I don’t think so) and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Matthew McConaughey, is going to clock in at three hours, so no trailer, no matter how long or how many, can give away all the good stuff. All they have done is make me eager to see this stockbroker meltdown story. What’s grabbed you?
Mark: I’m looking forward to The Wolf of Wall Street too. But I’ve already decided that Inside Llewyn Davis, the new Coen Bros movie about the Greenwich Village folk scene in 1961, will be my favourite movie of the year. Perhaps I should actually SEE the film before making my decision, but I know, Richard, I just know! I’ve been waiting for someone to make a movie like this for a long time, and who better than the Coen Bros? The trailer looks terrific and Justin Timberlake looks perfect in his orange alpaca cardigan, not that it would influence my decision in the least.
RC: Timberlake is such a conundrum for me. He’s a wildly talented guy whose movies frequently don’t work. My fingers are crossed that for him, Llewyn is more Social Network than Runner Runner. Saving Mr. Banks is another one I’m looking forward to. I’m a sucker for old Hollywood so the story of Walt Disney (played by Tom Hanks) wooing P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) for the rights to Mary Poppins is up my alley. That, and I’d watch Thompson do anything — bake a chicken, read the phonebook or play an uptight spinster.
MB: Here’s a guilty pleasure: Grudge Match, the story of two aging boxers facing off for the first time in 50 years. Since the boxers are played by De Niro and Stallone, it’s like a dream mash-up: Raging Bull vs Rocky! I’m hoping Will Smith gets a dream sequence cameo as Ali. And let’s not forget American Hustle, David O. Russell’s new film about greed, lust, politics, and the Mafia. Sounds like a perfect title.
RC: Three things make me want to see American Hustle: the trailers (which are awesome), Christian Bale’s beer gut and Jennifer Lawrence’s extravagant hairdos.
MB: Wait! Make that De Niro’s beer gut and Stallone’s hairdo and it’s a Grudge Match!
A titan in Hollywood and one of the largest media conglomerates in the world, the Mouse House is looking back at their rich history in a very interesting way.
For instance, Get a Horse, the dazzling new short that plays before Frozen in theatres, is the first original Mickey Mouse theatrical cartoon in almost two decades.
But more than simply being a reintroduction to a beloved character, it’s also a deft marriage of old and new techniques that features, through some technical wizardry, the first vocal performance from Walt Disney since the 1960s.
In the live action roster there’s the Oscar hopeful Saving Mr. Banks, the story of the making of the classic Mary Poppins, and Tomorrowland, an epic sci-fi saga that was allegedly inspired by the contents of a mysterious box found in the Disney archives.
The ninety-year-old company has one eye on the past and the other very much on the future.
“We like to think of our legacy as a springboard to the future and not something that anchors us so you can’t move your feet,” says Walt Disney Animation Studios General Manager and Executive Vice President Andrew Millstein.
“There is a great wealth of characters and visual material but in its day the best of Disney was innovative and moved with audiences. We should do the same. Whether it is Get a Horse or Frozen or Big Hero Six, in terms of our approach to stories or animation or technology, we’re building on our legacy for our future.”
So what should audiences can anticipate from Disney in the next few years? Millstein says audiences should, “expect the unexpected.”
“We have to be fiercely original. We have to give audiences things they haven’t seen before. We want to surprise audiences. We want our stories to be compelling, the worlds to be great, the technology and the visuals to be stunning. If we do our jobs well, that is what’s going to happen.”
Millstein knows what he’s talking about. He’s been with Disney since 1997, when he started there as a production executive in the studio’s motion pictures group.
“It makes me feel very proud that I am part of a company that is creating content and films that you know are going to live for a long, long time,” he says. “We’re part of the zeitgeist of modern history.”