The plot sound absolutely boring: PJ Travers goes to Hollywood and fights with just about everyone over Disney’s plan to make a film about Mary Poppins.
Yet the film is surprisingly gentle toward it’s characters, and via flashbacks slowly gives us a complex picture of how creation of how and why art is able to transform memories into stories.
I am old enough to have read the original Mary Poppins before the film transformed her from a plain spoken nanny to a figure of beauty and music. The only thing I remember clearly from the book is that I wondered about where was mom (our neighborhood didn’t have nannies, but moms and grandmothers who cared for the children). And I remembered the teaparty on the ceiling: where the very proper Mary Poppins joined the whimsy of the party without giving up her dignity.
How this transformation, from a sourpuss nanny to a joyful Julie Andrews character, took place, and those who did it, are the subject of this movie: for although “Mrs. Travers” is the main character, it also features Walt Disney himself, the Sherman brothers and the scriptwriter who did the transformation.
If your eyes are glazing over at this point, thinking “typical Hollywood Biography”, well, no. And don’t go and watch the preview on youtube, which makes the film seem like a “tart British lady confronts Hollywood” meme, which the film is definitely not.
The film transports us back and forth from the making of the movie script to the author’s childhood: and the plot weaves a spell that is not only about the messy business of film making, but about imagination and fantasy and the power of story in our lives.
Tom Hanks plays Disney and Emma Thompson plays PJ Travers, and I would say they did a wonderful “acting” job, except that they didn’t seem to be acting, but became their parts (which is the skill of the greatest actors).
So who was the real “Mary Poppins”, and why is the movie called “Saving Mr. Banks”? You will have to see the film to find out.
I give the film four stars out of four.
For more information about Travers and Disney story, check out this article by Brian Sibley, or this one on his blog: LINK and LINK about her work “The fox at the manger”. A list of his blogposts labeled Disney is HERE. including this one on the Sherman brothers.
Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines.