Upon walking into the movie theater for Saving Mr. Banks, I groaned, assuming it was another cheesy Disney movie. As reluctant as I was, Saving Mr. Banks shattered every notion of a fairytale cliche of singing animated cartoon characters with happily-ever-afters.
Saving Mr. Banks premiered Dec. 13 and reveals P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), the author of Mary Poppins, as a shrewd, irritable and incredibly relateable middle-aged British woman. Her entanglement with Walt Disney begins as Travers is on the edge of bankruptcy. She is forced to consider Disney’s offer to make Mary Poppins into a movie despite her reservations that he will make a mockery of her beloved novel.
The basis of Mary Poppins is revealed from emotionally charged flashbacks of events and people from Travers’ childhood. Mary Poppins, Travers firmly states, “is family” to her, and she coldly rejects any use of music, cartoons or unnecessary silliness in the film adaptation of Mary Poppins, or she will not sign over her rights to Disney.
However, as the plot progresses and Travers’ tragic past is revealed, Travers begins to trust Disney’s judgement despite her reservations.
These flashbacks featured the innocent wonder of a young Travers living in Australia and her close relationship with her flawed yet larger than life father Travers Goff (Colin Farrell). Audience members watch the fairytale childhood her father fostered in Travers’ mind shatter as she develops the idea of Mary Poppins.
Saving Mr. Banks is less about the Mary Poppins film adaptation and more about what is emotionally resolved for Travers as the movie is made. It was evident that audience members cried, gasped and truly lost themselves in Travers’ life, as she struggles to deal with demons from her past while working with writers on the movie.
Overall, Saving Mr. Banks was not at all what audience members could anticipate. As someone who normally detests all things Disney, Saving Mr. Banks changed my perception because the story of P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins is real and Disney stayed true to Travers’ wishes in portraying the reality of her story.