Saving Mr. Banks (PG)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner27/11/2013

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 126 mins

Utterly charming, frequently funny and powerfully emotional comedy-drama with a most delightful script, spit-spot-on production design work and wondrous, award-worthy performances from Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks.

What's it all about?
Directed by John Lee Hancock, Saving Mr Banks is based on a true story and stars Emma Thompson as author Pamela Lyndon (P. L.) Travers, who agrees to fly to Hollywood in order to negotiate with Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) over the film rights to Mary Poppins. With pre-conceived ideas very much in her head, Pamela is adamant on two points: she will retain final script approval and there will, on no account, be any animation in the film.

When Disney appears to agree to her demands, Pamela gets to work on the script with screenwriter Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford) and song-writing brothers Richard and Robert Sherman (Jason Schwartzman and BJ Novak), but her insistence at niggling away at every tiny detail drives all three men to distraction. Meanwhile, flashbacks to Pamela's childhood (impressively played by newcomer Annie Buckley) in Australia with her loving but troubled father (Colin Farrell) and put-upon mother (Ruth Wilson) gradually shed light on just why she's so protective over Poppins in the first place.

The Good
Thompson is simply wonderful (and almost certainly Oscar-nomination-bound) as Travers, a tetchy, no-nonsense woman who always speaks her mind; an audio recording of the real Travers that plays over the closing credits shows how spot-on her performance is. It's a testament to Thompson's portrayal that we clearly understand what a nightmare Travers must have been to work with, yet she remains sympathetic as we also correctly sense the deeper, achingly personal reasons behind her reluctance to let go of her creation; as such, her gradual softening is utterly compelling and powerfully emotional to watch.

Hanks is equally delightful as Disney, mounting a twinkly charm offensive, yet remaining every inch the clear-sighted businessman underneath – the scenes where he realises he's under-estimated Travers are nicely handled, as you can see his brain racing to course-correct, strategy wise. There's also typically brilliant support from Paul Giamatti (extremely touching as Travers' assigned driver, Ralph), while Schwartzman, Novak and Whitford are all splendid and a cast-against-type Farrell is heart-wrenching as Travers' father.

The Great
Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith's excellent script is charming, frequently laugh-out-loud funny and genuinely moving – it's also packed with wonderful sequences (every scene with the songwriters playing Travers the songs is fabulous) and there are a number of in-jokes and references for fans of the film. In addition, Hancock gets the tone exactly right (aided by Mark Livolsi's skillful editing, particularly in the flashback sequences) and there's a splendid score by Thomas Newman that cleverly incorporates refrains from the famous songs.

Worth seeing?
Saving Mr. Banks is a thoroughly entertaining and superbly acted Hollywood story that's both deeply moving and laugh-out-loud funny. It will also make you want to watch Mary Poppins again and is certain to pick up a boat-load of Oscar nominations come awards time. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

Saving Mr. Banks (PG)
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Content updated: 23/10/2017 16:10

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