This past week I went to see Wicked on Broadway (stay with me here). Most folks know that things happened in OZ before Dorothy dropped in. And, so they made a Broadway show about it, or book or whatever. But, I digress.
Saving Mr. Banks is basically the story of the 1964 Walt Disney award winning movie Mary Poppins before the narrator starts:
Winds in the east, theres a mist comin' in
Like somethin' is brewin' and 'bout to begin.
Can't put me finger on what lies in store,
But I feel what's to happen all happened before.
Even before Dick Van Dyke showed up on the roof top, Walt Disney himself spent twenty years trying to convince P.L. Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins book, to let him make a major motion picture of the story.
The movie (Mr. Banks) weaves Ms. Travers childhood back and forth with her two week gut wrenching trip from her home in London to Beverly Hills to meet with Disney's folks about the script. The story line goes back forth between her angst to give up her beloved "Mary Poppins" to anyone and her anything but idyllic childhood. As her battles with the script writers and the guys writing the score continue, you are thrown back into the past.
As the script is being written, you learn more and more about the real people the characters in the book were based on. And, as Ms. Travers angst grows about the project, her childhood story reveals more. No spoiler here, the two collide.
Emma Thompson who plays Ms. Travers is in her element. I can not imagine anyone else in this role with the facial expressions, the stature, and the ability to play a strong remote being asked to open her soul. Tom Hanks plays Walt Disney and he is most convincing, which is hard to do. I still remember him in my den every Sunday evening when my brother and I would sit down to watch Tinkerbell wave her wand around the castle and then Walt Disney himself would be there to introduce that night's show.
Thompson's Travers plays well against Hanks' Disney, neither is not quite sure what they are up against. Annie Rose Buckley who plays Ginty does a masterful job playing a young child caught up in a world where she watches everything she believes in just go away. All the promises made to her evaporate. The close ups of her face show the innocence of a child, but often the fear of the unknown.
The scenes where the songs for the Mary Poppins movie were being created brought so many memories. In my mind the lyrics were so familiar and so incredibly well done. The movie is long, 125 minutes. Bring tissues, this film evokes emotion through out. It is not one where you can easily wipe the tear from your cheek as you leave the theater. There were folks so caught up, they were having to wipe their noses, removed their glasses, and rummage for more Kleenex.
By all means go see it. It is slow at times, but it takes a while to wrap the two parts together. This is Academy Award material, Thompson and Hanks - definitely; Best Picture, perhaps (but it's a tough field this year), and a possible nod to Buckley for her talent with such an intense role.