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SAVING MR. BANKS (2013)

The trailers for SAVING MR. BANKS are very misleading, making it look like a whimsical tale of how Walt Disney and P.L. Travers (That’s “Mrs. Travers” to you) butted heads over the creation of the film adaptation of MARY POPPINS but the movie is far more (and far better) than that.
 
It is also considerably darker in tone and theme than you might expect. But once again that is a plus. A good majority of the movie concerns P.L. Travers’ (Emma Thompson) early childhood in Australia. As a child, she greatly admired her father (Colin Farrell). He had an imagination like no other but he was also a drunk and couldn’t hold down a job. This slowly eroded her family and would define the type of woman she would grow to be.
 
And as an adult, Travers was quite difficult to put it mildly. I am purposely not using words like “irascible” or “petulant” to describe her, because that implies a “gosh-golly gee” approach which does a great disservice to Thompson’s deeply layered and Oscar worthy performance. This is not a film about an ill-tempered lady who’s won over by that Disney charm. It’s about a deeply damaged woman who must come to terms with her emotional baggage and learn to let go.
 
Yes, the movie has plenty of those quirky moments where Travers stonewalls the frustrated Walt (Tom Hanks) and his team of Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford) and Richard and Robert Sherman (Jason Schwartzman and BJ Novak respectively), but it’s not as sappy as you’d expect. As a matter of fact, the movie, directed by John Lee Hancock (THE BLIND SIDE), is far less sentimental than you would assume by the trailers.
 
The story of how MARY POPPINS took shape is quite compelling and I wouldn’t have minded more, even though the movie is already over 2 hours long. I have mentioned before that I’m not a Disney groupie, so of all people, you would think I would have a problem with a movie so obviously self-serving, but I didn’t at all. The story is worthy of being told and is a fascinating tale about how fiction can become reality in more ways than one.
 
The performances are top notch across the board with the biggest revelation being Colin Farrell. Forget everything you thought you knew about him as an actor, because he gives by far his best performance in this film. I was shocked at how great he was and I would not be surprised if he received an Oscar nod. He has serious dramatic acting chops that for some reason he has been squandering on silly action films.
 
SAVING MR. BANKS is worth watching. Not a run out and see it film, but one not to miss. I was hesitant to see it because I thought it was going to be completely candy-coated, but the film is a far richer confection. No spoonful of sugar necessary to enjoy this treat.

DECEMBER 6, 2013