Saving Mr Banks
Saving Mr Banks is Disney Studios' big Valentine's Day card to itself. In this film, back in theaters ahead of Oscar time (it is nominated for Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score), Emma Thompson portrays P.L. Travers, the author of Mary Poppins, as an insufferably high-strung, difficult curmudgeon which, by all accounts, is what she was. The story is about her meeting Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) at his office in Hollywood for the purpose of his adapting her children's novel to the big screen, Disney style.
Mr Hanks' fatherly, benign Walt Disney bears little resemblance to most biographical reports of this man's tyrannical business style. He also physically bears little resemblance to the iconic Walt Disney tv image, despite his make-up and spirited performance.
Thompson, who was nominated for an award as Best Actress in a Drama at the most recent Golden Globes, hands in a splendid acting job, though her character is a huge pain-in-the-ass to everyone around her. She then goes through an incredible, Jeckyl and Hyde-like transformation via her working relationship with Disney and his crew, saving herself decades of psychotherapy, overcoming her grandiosity, egomania, Electra complex and all other deeply rooted Freudian issues simply by relentingly signing over the film rights to her novel.
Nonetheless, this confection, with its serio-comic style, will emotionally manipulate most viewers with moments of heartbeak and humor, disarming sweetness and flawless style. When P.L.Travers attends the Hollywood premiere of Disney's Mary Poppins, seeing her childhood reflected on-screen, Ms Thompson pulls out all the stops in a genuinely touching and cathartic piece of acting brilliance that moved me to tears.
Colin Farrell, in a beautifully modulated performance, looking all cleaned up and as dashing as ever, generally steals the film as the author's loving but hopelessly alcoholic father. The supporting cast is superb, most especially Paul Giamatti in a fictitious and unlikely role, and Kathy Baker.
Like many a Valentine, Saving Mr Banks is sweet, affectionate and beautifully embroidered. In truth, according to IMDB, Travers never forgave Walt Disney "for what she saw as vulgar and disrespectful adaptation of her 'Mary Poppins' novels." But this is the Disney version of their story with its imperative happy ending. A spoonful of sugar for a bitter pill.