Perhaps you have seen the movie Mary Poppins. If you are like most children, you have seen this now classic movie. But did you have any idea how that movie was created? How hard it was for Disney to get the original author of the novels to give him the rights to produce the movie? What, were you not even aware that there were Mary Poppins books?
Well, the story of how the now-classic film was made is told in the movie Saving Mr. Banks, out in theaters now. Perhaps you have heard about this one, since it is garnering Oscar buzz for Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson. It turns out that the buzz is worth it as this is a fascinating look into the making of films and into the psyche of a deeply wounded person.
Helen Lyndon Goff is the woman who wrote the Mary Poppins books, but she wrote under the name of PL Travers. She is played by Emma Thompson in a role that should garner her much praise and many award nominations. Travers was a very difficult person to work with and tapes that were used to help make this movie prove that she gave the people at Disney studios a helluva time while they tried to bring her creation to life.
What the creators of the movie did not know, however, was that Travers had lived a hard life. Although she portrayed herself as a staid, snooty, British woman, she was actually raised in Australia. Her father was an alcoholic, constantly losing his job at various banks due to his drinking and forcing his family to move all over the harsh country. With his little Helen, he encouraged her to let her imagination run wild, attempting to shield her as much as he could from the fact he was destroying himself and his family.
Travers created Mary Poppins as a way of dealing with this and Saving Mr. Banks is titles this because, as far as she was concerned, Mary was not there to save the children. She was there to save the father, Mr. Banks, the way she was unable to save her own father.
The movie is fascinating. The performances are first-rate with Hanks creating a three-dimensional Walt Disney. He has made a promise to his daughters to produce Mary Poppins the movie, and he does not want to go back on his word - but he has never had to work with someone like Travers.
Thompson is wonderful as Travers. She manages to become likable despite also being horrible to anyone and everyone she has to work with at the Disney studios. How the movie ever got made is truly remarkable.
The real find in his movie is Colin Farrell. Farrell has made quite a few missteps in recent years, but her, portraying Travers' father, he shows why he is considered a truly outstanding actor. He ads real pathos and heartbreak to his role as a man trying to hold on to his world, his sanity, his family, by his fingertips. It's a performance that may get overlooked in the powerhouse portrayals by Thompson and Hanks, but should be noticed when awards-time comes around.
Saving Mr. Banks is a movie that takes us behind the curtain into film-making, but also into that mysterious thing that creates storytellers. What is it that causes some people to want to tell tales? Is it to mask some deep inner turmoil or correct some kind of wound from the past? At times the movie is funny, at times it will make you cry.
It's a remarkable journey, well told, and one of the better movies of 2013.