Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Theater Review: Saving Mr. Banks

I love finding out the back stories of some of my favorite things. Sometimes they aren't what they seem, but you usually find out some pretty cool information.

Saving Mr. Banks is the behind-the-scenes process of bringing Mary Poppins to the big screen at Walt Disney Studios.

P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) created the character Mary Poppins for children's books that she had written. And, as we see in flashbacks of Travers' childhood, Poppins is more than just a character in a book to her.

Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) promised his daughters more than 20 years ago that he would bring their favorite book to the big screen - and he began trying to court Mrs. Travers in doing so.

Travers, though, only saw Disney as that animated place - and never saw Mary Poppins as an animated feature, nor did she see it as a musical.

After 20 years, the book money has not been coming in as frequently and Travers had begun to run out of money. So, she decided to take a trip out to Los Angeles to meet with Disney and his crew about the possibility of bringing Mary Poppins to the big screen.

Of course, Travers is anything but helpful along the way. In fact, she pretty much hates everything. She forced each meeting to be recorded. I really had never heard of the practice before of pretty much fleshing out the entire movie before even acquiring the rights - perhaps it happens and we just don't hear about it.

Richard (Jason Schwartzman) and Robert (B.J. Novak) Sherman present many songs they have written for her movie - and of course they clash with her. Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford) was the screenwriter for the film and all three bent over backwards to make things work.

The only person Travers opened up to during her entire trip was her driver Ralph (Paul Giamatti), who she said was the only American she could stand.

Though she was a pill, Disney actually understood her - in fact, she probably was the best person go through this process with her. He too once had an imaginary family member that someone wanted to purchase - and he never gave him up.

Obviously, in the end the movie ended up being made under the Disney banner - and Disney ended up getting his way with a lot of the things Travers disagreed with, including having Dick Van Dyke play Bert.

The acting, especially Hanks and Thompson, was outstanding. Thompson was so spiteful as Travers - she really got into the character very well. Hanks was great as Disney as well, it was the first time ever that Disney had been portrayed in a film.

Novak and Schwartzman both stood out as the Sherman brothers, and Whitford and Giamatti are both their outstanding selves.

In flashbacks, Colin Farrell played Travers' dad and Annie Rose Buckley, in her first film role, plays a young Travers - and I thought she was amazing in the role.

Overall, a great telling of the story - and a great use of flashbacks to allow the viewer to see why it is so difficult for Travers to allow Disney to make this into a movie.


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