Monday, December 30, 2013

An Effective Saving of Mr. Banks

                Regardless of how satisfying a Disney movie can be, they always seem to surprise me.  I really do manage to fall in love with them, whether it is upon leaving the theatre or letting them play to the last few seconds in my VCR.  “Saving Mr. Banks” is no exception.  I will never be able to watch “Mary Poppins” the same way again, as there is so much more to it than just dancing penguins and chimney sweeps.  John Lee Hancock directs this work of art, and it is no surprise why the critics are raving about Disney’s latest film. 

                “Banks” is a live-action picture, which is the story behind the creative process and struggle to create “Mary Poppins,” the 1964 Disney movie about a nanny who reunites the broken Banks family.  P. L. Travers (Emma Thompson), the author of the children’s book “Mary Poppins” has been entreated by the Disney Studios since 1938 for the rights.  After much effort to keep her book from being transformed into another “silly cartoon” of Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) and his studio, she finally agrees to meet him in California and will sign over the rights, provided she oversees the entire creative process.

                As she dives into the minutiae of “Mary Poppins,” Travers reflects on her childhood in Australia, especially on her relationship with her father.  He was the inspiration for the patriarch of “Poppins,” Mr. Banks.  His poor temper yet loving disposition played a major role in her childhood, and his battle with alcoholism didn’t make things easy.  Travers’ relationship with her father weighed a lot on her writing later on in life, especially when determining how Mr. Banks really should be portrayed.  Working with Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford) and the Sherman Brothers (Jason Schwartzman and B. J. Novak) was a long and grueling process.  However, once she realized the importance of bringing “Mary Poppins” to the silver screen, she makes the bold move of signing the rights over.  “Saving Mr. Banks” is an excellent interpretation of how difficult it can be making a film, from the storyboards and script to the music and costuming.   

                Thompson plays an anxiety stricken woman, whose proper nature and desperate need for a spoonful of sugar will make you love her, even though she is utterly disgusted by Disneyland.     She thoroughly prepared for her role as the uptight author.  Thompson styled her own hair similar to that of Travers.  She also listened to the tapes recorded from the scriptwriting process in which Travers dictated her many concerns of what Disney’s team dreamed up.  Overall, she is absolutely in this film (as expected) and it is no wonder why she has received a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of Travers. 

                She wasn’t the only actor who did their homework for “Saving Mr. Banks.”  Tom Hanks grew his mustache out, causing the make-up and costuming team style it just like Disney’s.  He also listened to old recordings of Disney and practiced his Midwestern inflection while reading the newspaper.  Jason Schwartzman and B. J. Novak also had the pleasure of working closely with Richard Sherman, which was very beneficial throughout rehearsals and the actual filming. 

                This film will effectively transport you to Los Angeles in the 1960’s.  Disneyland, even though is much different from what it is now, is still enchanting.  The scenery will make you fall in love.  Costuming and the stylistic aspects of the film were approached in a most favorable manner.  Everything from the bag Emma Thompson carried around to Tom Hanks’ mustache was finely placed, avoiding any anachronistic nature.  Nuances everywhere made all the difference, as there was an authenticity to the film that is less common now than before. 

                “Saving Mr. Banks” was as heartwarming as it was heartbreaking.  Audiences get to see the struggle that comes along with creating a movie, along with the delights that make the frustration worth it in the end.  As soon as I got home, I put “Mary Poppins” on to get a better feel for what really is going on throughout the film.  The tribute it plays is respectable and appropriate.  For the story it tells, I couldn’t imagine a better interpretation.   

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