Film Review – Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

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Title – Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

Director – John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side)

Cast – Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Paul Giamatti, B.J Novak, Jason Schwartzman, Ruth Wilson, Kathy Baker, Rachel Griffiths

Plot – Revered British author P.L Travers (Thompson) deals with the internal struggle of giving up her most popular creation to filmmaker Walt Disney (Hanks) who wants to bring her creation to life in a way that not only touches people the world over but Travers herself.

“That’s what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination”

Review by Eddie on 21/05/2014

Saving Mr. Banks is one of those films that commits the fateful cinema sin of producing exactly what you expect from it and is therefore entirely and utterly predictable from the film’s start until it’s signposted ending. What makes Hancock’s film a true misfire however is that this predictable journey is centred around one of the most horrendous and unlikeable leading ladies (we are talking Nurse Ratchet like unlikeable here) I’ve been unlucky enough to witness and no matter where her life resolution takes us it’s mighty hard to care.

There were quite a few pundits within the movie industry that bemoaned the fact British actress Emma Thompson missed out on being nominated for an Oscar for her work here, but all I can say is thank goodness for common sense prevailing. Thompson’s role as cantankerous and razor tongued author P.L Travers may be close to the real life thing but it doesn’t enhance the fact all Thompson had to do was look sour, be ungrateful and generally be rude to everyone and anything, an acting feat that can’t be overly hard to pull off. Surrounded by solid support everywhere you look, Travers overshadows all other players thanks to her cancerous hatred towards most things in her life and it is supposed to be OK because she has daddy issues? That is also where Saving Mr. Banks fails.

Giving audiences an inside look into the authors troubled childhood in Australia is a nice touch but the way in which it is structured, through flashbacks featuring a questionably acting Colin Farrell and later on Australia’s very own (cantankerous and rude in real life) actor Rachel Griffiths, is a play by the filmmakers that feels gimmicky and misused. It’s clear that Traver’s childhood wasn’t a fairy tale but it’s also clear that it doesn’t give her an excuse to be the lady she was and doesn’t justify a life of frequent rudeness. The film does succeed in showing us again why Mary Poppins is such a fine cinematic classic with raucous rendition of songs a highlight, and it’s nice to see Hanks enjoying himself as Mr. Disney but you wouldn’t say it’s one of his crowning achievements.

Filmed with an overall air of TV movie quality and with a script that often fails to justify a reason for us to be spending such a large portion of our time with a sour old lady, Saving Mr. Banks greatest achievement is making the audience wish they were watching Mary Poppins instead; a film filled with wonder, joy, characters we care for and a sense of originality which is virtually all the things Saving Mr. Banks doesn’t have.

2 cups of tea out of 5

24 responses to “Film Review – Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

  1. Looks like I made the right decision in skipping this one when it was out in cinemas.

    “TV movie quality” says it all.

    Thanks for the review!

    • Hey Tuan

      A lot of people really seemed to love this one – just check IMDB for proof but I really did find it had an overall quality of a TV production and not a whole lot of scope actually.

  2. It’s interesting to read a negative review of this film, when almost every other critic I’ve read has been so adoring. I haven’t seen it, but want to because I love Mary Poppins. The problem with most recent biopics, I find, is that they’re chained to a cult of personality surrounding their subjects. They’re too afraid to offend the subject’s often rabid fans by including anything even remotely interesting, and thus possibly critical, of them.
    Incidentally, that’s why I want to see that HBO film about Hitchcock, The Girl. Hitch fans have been calling it a hatchet job, but I’d rather see a nasty hatchet job than another fawning circle-jerk, which Anthony Hopkins’ Hitchcock was, in my opinion.
    Great review, Eddie. It was refreshing to read such an honest approach to the characterisations in this film.

    • Fantastic to hear your comments also mate, I reckon this is one you have to check out and I am very very surprised that so many feel for it or maybe I am just to cranky! Not really sure.

  3. Good review Eddie. Could have easily been the most manipulative, most schmaltzy thing ever made, but it surprisingly had some emotion into it and showed what it’s like for us creators to stick by our material, no matter what.

    • I did appreciate the artistry the real life people showed especially the brothers and Walt but I found P.L just wholly unlikeable and her reaction to someone willing to showcase her material to the world was nothing short of rudeness.

  4. Hollywood has a tough time bringing history to cinema, I think that’s why bio-films are so hit-and-miss, either a guaranteed Oscar winner (think Lawrence of Arabia, Gandhi, Schindler’s List, etc) or is panned and painful (think Diana). Real life doesn’t always make a good story, good characters or a good film, but you can’t risk historical inaccuracy either. I thought Lovelace was a good example of how to do it right – break the true story up and reassemble it in a way that still takes the audience through the tried-and-true story arc. Unlikeable characters are also hit and miss, I love Hannibal, but I wouldn’t want to come down on X-mas morning and find him in my lounge, meanwhile I could not stand the arrogant ass Jesse Eisenberg was in Now You See Me. So I don’t know, even if I also dislike this film I may want to give them a lot of points for trying.

    • Hey mate some very intriguing thoughts on the Hollywood process.
      I am not sure they trued overly hard with this one though it all felt extremely run of the mill from the filming style through to the structure.

  5. I couldn’t face seeing this. Mostly because I have an irrational hatred for both Tom Hanks and Disney.

  6. Yikes, did we see the same movie 🙂 I loved it and I especially loved Colin Farrell!! Right after seeing it, Mary Poppins was on TV. I had never seen it so I started to watch and I couldn’t finish. I thought it was awful. I agreed with P.L. Travers…what was with the penguins? Banks did make me read a lot more articles about her and Disney and it was very interesting. They truly did not like one another and she never forgave him for what he did to her book.
    But I did enjoy your review 🙂

    • Ha good to hear Joan – I really could not enjoy this one I would of much preferred Marry Poppins 🙂 I kind of like the random penguins! I just can’t buy Farrell as a drunk either, not sure its actually acting if he does that haha.

  7. Sorry you cats didn’t enjoy this one, but I’m in agreement with Joan. I really did like this movie, and the character of PL Travers didn’t really bother me. I loved her cranky attitude to Walt and the whole project. It made me laugh. When she starts warming up to the whole project and some of the songs. I’ll admit it I got a little teary eyed. You mentioned that this felt like a TV drama. I don’t know why this is a bad thing. There have been tons of great drama on TV so why is this looking like one a bad thing.

    • Hey bud happy to hear that you liked it, I just think with this story and project it could of felt a lot more grand but most if the drama took place in a single room. TV movies aren’t bad but when a film has a big budget and cast you expect a little more.

  8. Ouch! This movie really touched a chord with me. I loved the idea of an artists ties to his or her work but especially that most of us have a moment in life where childhood is over. Then you often spend the rest of your life resenting whoever gave you that moment. Disney tried to forget it with whimsy. Travers with none and changing who she was (even her accent). It really made me think about my life and forgiveness.
    Probably sound sentimental but yeah it really moved me.

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