Monday, December 16, 2013

Saving Mr. Hanks - er, Banks

I saw a free sneak preview of "Saving Mr. Banks" the other day. It's about the collaboration between Walt Disney and P. L. Travers, author of the Mary Poppins books, to bring Mary Poppins to the silver screen.

I enjoyed the movie, although not as much as the movie wanted me to enjoy it. A few reasons: I don't trust the Disney brand to truthfully depict its founder (and I'm sure anyone else who tried to do a realistic biopic would be promptly sued). As I expected, they cast Tom Hanks because he's so very good in his well-worn role of tirelessly whimsical and empathetic, soft-eyed gentleman. I'm not easily charmed by things like giant, stuffed Mickey Mouses and gentle speeches meant to cut right to the heart. Neither am I especially touched by the superficially sweet relationships that develop between professional drivers and people who sit in the back seat.

"Saving Mr. Banks" is one of those movies that wants to tug at your heartstrings, but it's too lazy to do it right; it takes shortcuts. The feelings it tries to elicit are shallow ones. They don't last.

Emma Thompson, however, was perfection. She does the classic, uptight British thing so well. And although the flashbacks to her childhood seemed forced and clumsy - and I refuse to believe that anyone's memories could be quite so cliche as all that - I appreciated the parallels drawn between familiar and beloved characters from "Mary Poppins" and characters from P. L. Travers's own past.

I won't spoil anything exactly. I will say that the movie almost made me cry when it showed this clip:


Oh, Mr. Banks. He's such an almost-tragic figure, and the older I get, the more I understand him and the more he breaks my heart. 
Mary Poppins would not approve, I'm sure.

Edit: This is what I really wanted to say about the movie, but Harlan Ellison says it better. Manipulative! That's the perfect word for it. I love the movie "Mary Poppins," but for some reason it gives me more satisfaction to know that P.L. Travers never really gave in.

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