2013-12-20

Saving Mr. Banks – Making and Enduring Classic Even More Endearing.

by Yo Snyder

If you’re a fan of the Disney classic Mary Poppins, then the new film about some of what went on behind
the scenes, entitled Saving Mr. Banks,
will likely make you an even bigger fan. If you aren’t a fan of Mary Poppins, there’s a good chance that
watching Saving Mr. Banks will make
you one. I always felt there was something more going on beneath the surface of
the movie Mary Poppins, but I could never
put my finger on what that was. With Saving
Mr. Banks
, we get a better idea of not only why the movie was made the way
it was, but also what it really meant; to both Walt (don’t call him Mr. Disney)
and Mrs. Travers (don’t call her Pam). While it may seem strange to make a
movie about the making of a movie, this is a story that was definitely worthy
of its own film, as the real life drama and triumph of it all is every bit as
heart rending and inspiring as the fictional story that resulted from it.

Now Tom Hanks has the top billing in this movie, which isn’t
much of a surprise since he’s playing Walt Disney. He does a fine job and every
bit of his trademark charm is up on screen; it’s easy to buy into him being “Uncle”
Walt. But as good as he is, Emma Thompson is even better. She has the tougher
but juicier role since P.L. Travers isn’t exactly a likeable person, but she is
one that you can sympathize with; and that balance is not easy to pull off. The
more we learn about her past and how that shaped the world of Mary Poppins and
her own life, the more it’s hard not to feel for her and to desperately want a
happy ending for her. However, I’d have to say the real star of this film is
Colin Farrel. It’s remarkable since one probably wouldn’t even know he’s in the
film from watching the previews, but he plays a very crucial role as Travers’
father in all the flashbacks to her childhood. This role is a reminder of what
a talented actor he really is, and much of the story and what happens pivots on
his character. I think an argument can be made that he outshines both Hanks and
Thompson in a surprising strong portrayal of a truly tragic character; a man’s
who’s trying to break free but is constantly trapped by the reality that keeps
crashing in on him.

There are plenty of profound, touching and tragic moments in
this film, but one that really stayed with me was a moment when Walt, pleading
with Mrs. Travers to let him have her creation to use for the good of many
others, tells her that she needs to start living a life that isn’t dictated by
the past. Ah, how many of us would like that to be true; to be able to live a
life, and live it freely, that isn’t dictated by the past – past mistakes, past
tragedies, past heartbreaks, past whatevers. It is very hard to break free of
the past, and yet here’s God calling out to us “Behold I can make all things
new.” One of the many things that happened on the cross when Jesus Christ was
crucified was the chains of the past were shattered. Through Christ we can have
a fresh start, through Jesus we can break free from the past that defined us
and instead be defined by his love, mercy and grace. Through him we can find
solace, comfort, healing, freedom and yes even forgiveness for all that
happened in the past, and then move on to a future filled with hope, joy, peace
and life. The title Saving Mr. Banks
is a very intentional one, not because it’s a play on Tom Hanks’ other movie Saving Private Ryan, but because we all
need saving. We all have a story that could be entitled Saving Mr./Ms./Mrs. Insert Your Name Here; and it’s Jesus who
stands ready to do the saving and give us that happy ending we long for.

The radio station Air1 does this piece called “Behind the
Music”, and what I really like about it is it can often make a song that I
previously just enjoyed into something I really cherish because sometimes
hearing why that was made gives it a special poignancy. The same is true with Mary Poppins and Saving Mr. Banks. There is a tragedy and pain and darkness behind
the creation of Mary Poppins, both as a literary character and as a character
on the screen, and knowing the things that shaped her makes Mary Poppins even
more fascinating (both as a book and a movie). Sure, Saving Mr. Banks adds a healthy heap of a spoon full of sugar to
help the rest of it go down, but despite the sugar coating, this is still a
fascinating look at the darker side of what has been one of Disney’s most
memorable and uplifting musicals of all time. It’s a fascinating story that
makes for one of the year’s best films, and will make an enduring classic
something to cherish even more.

Score:  6 of 7 – Saving Mr. Banks is rated PG-13, mostly for some darker thematic elements. However, younger kids won’t enjoy it mainly because this is more of an emotional drama than a typical Disney comedy. For older kids, and fans, it’s a film that’s not to be missed.