Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

Ostensibly, this is the story about the making of Mary Poppins. In reality, this is a story about two people coming to grips with their own pasts and connecting as fellow humans going through life and making the best of it. Those two people are Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks as Pamela "P. L." Travers and Walt Disney.

Is Emma Thompson the best actress on the planet? I think it is entirely possible. Her character is prudish, demanding, and harsh. Underneath, as you might expect, is a warm heart with significant emotional damage that manifests itself as the aforementioned unpleasantness. She plays the character with appropriate depth and aplomb. It is almost unfailingly entertaining to watch her in any role she gets, and this one is no less so. the fact that she is able to maintain screen presence while in the room with Tom Hanks is a testament to what she can do.

Yet, the other part of this acting duo is Tom hanks (last seen doing a fantastic job as pirate victim Captain Phillips). When I think of Walt Disney, I think of a monolithic corporation run by MBAs hell bent on world domination of a cartoon mouse by bullying the government swills and buying political favors. Tom brings a more human aspect to the man behind the machine that produced Hanna Montana, but it probably is a good idea to remember who is sponsoring this movie in the first place - that mega media empire Disney set loose upon the world. Either way, Tom makes the character likable and approachable without ruining his own depth. He and Emma approach their characters in different ways, but they end up at the same place.

Paul Giamatti does well in almost every character he plays, as well (I will forgive him the role he played in Ironclad.) Here, he is Emma's driver for her stay in California. It was clearly not written to be a bit part, and Paul doesn't play it like one. Instead, he brings a good amount of reality and nuance to the story that might be lost otherwise.

Not everything in this movie is sunshine and lollipops. Colin Farrell plays the father of a family in flashbacks. We are left to wonder for a bit what Emma's role in the flashbacks is, but it's clear that they are the inspiration for the Mary Poppins story in the first place. Colin does a terrible job. I wish I could say differently, but holy crap does he stink up the screen. You'd think an Irishman could pretend to be drunk a tad more convincingly, but not this guy.

He doesn't manage to ruin the movie, but he's definitely the low point. The movie tells the tale of Emma's past as well as why she is so meticulous about the details of the movie. The idea that Walt would animate parts of the movie, add songs, or otherwise insert mirth is a retelling of her own story as a fairy tale which she knows very well it was not. The struggle is Walt's attempt to bring to life the story he used to read to his children against the will of the woman who still owns the rights to it.

Acting was great (with one exception)
The story was very good
The dialog was excellent
Directing was good
Cinematography was very good

4.0/5

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