Friday, December 27, 2013

Saving Mr. Banks

P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), a cantankerous old biddy who penned the once beloved Mary Poppins book series, finds herself in dire economic straits after book sales and royalties have dried up. Against every bone in her body she travels to Hollywood to meet with Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) who has been at her for the film rights for twenty years, and in her mind seeks to butcher her work just to add one more notch to his belt. Saving Mr. Banks is a mostly entertaining making of movie which keeps cloying sentiment mostly (and thankfully) at bay, before turning it up somewhat shamelessly towards the end. It also employs a flashback structure featuring Colin Farrell as Travers' encouraging, drunkard father which is supposed to help explain her present disposition but ultimately doesn't really mesh with the narrative. Another subplot involving Paul Giamatti as a big-hearted chauffeur is throwaway pap. That being said, the scenes involving the preparations of the classic film are pretty delightful (but could they have hired more smarmy actors than Bradley Whitford, B.J. Novak, and Jason Schwartzman to play the acclaimed writing team of Don DaGradi and the Sherman Brothers?), Hanks is ideally cast, and Thompson, though there isn't much range to her character, shows what a brilliant performer she is in a concluding scene which requires no spoken words.