Disney Breaks Out with “Banks”

By Alex Lally, ’14

Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson star in Disney's latest film, "Saving Mr. Banks," the story of bringing "Mary Poppins" to the big screen.

Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson star in Disney’s latest film, “Saving Mr. Banks,” the story of bringing “Mary Poppins” to the big screen.

Walt Disney Pictures rarely aims for “Oscar bait,” mainly focusing on profits and maintaining a family-friendly line of films. However, “Saving Mr. Banks” is an exception, with its brilliant lead duo of Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson, high production values of1960s scenery, and a heavy dose of drama. For those unaware, “Saving Mr. Banks” tells the story of Walt Disney (Hanks) fighting for the rights to the now beloved classic novel, “Mary Poppins”, from its original author, P.L. Travers (Thompson), who is skeptical of it being adapted. The film occasionally intercuts to parts of Travers’ childhood and family in Australia.

The film’s acting is fantastic, with Thompson and Hanks giving excellent performances that are both sure to get Oscar nominations. Thompson gives both an unlikeable but at the same time sympathetic portrayal of Travers. Travers tries to be an uptight Englishwoman; however, she is reminded of her own traumatic childhood throughout the film and how “Mary Poppins,” though fictional, wasn’t entirely separate from her own life. The real show stealer is Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Walt Disney, as this is the first film to actually portray the man himself. I was quite surprised how they portrayed Disney in this film. One would expect the film to paint an exclusively positive portrait, but the film manages to show a more “human” side to Disney and even sometimes shows how he was a flawed man.

The cinematography has a symbolic balance between the present and flashback scenes of Travers’ childhood. In the present, it’s all bright and colorful, very Hollywood. In the flashback, it’s all bleak, dull, and sometimes depressing, much like how real-life can be sometimes compared to what you see on a movie theater screen.

My only real complaint with the film is the ending, it ironically, felt a little too “Disney” for me. It wasn’t because it was bad or even too happy but you have to see it to understand. Overall “Saving Mr. Banks” is perhaps Disney’s best attempt at a live action film since “Enchanted” and the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise. 3.5 out of 4 stars.

 

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