In Saving Mr Banks, Emma Thompson plays the role of Mary Poppins’ author P L Travers. The movie opens up to her discussing the prospects of a film deal with her agent. Walt Disney has been pursuing the deal for 20 years. She seems adamant on refusing in fear that her main character will be disfigured by the overly-optimistic nature of Disney’s signature movies. However, she is out of money and is pressured by her agent to accept the deal. This takes her to Los Angeles to meet Walt Disney and the rest of the filmmaking team.
Travers is a woman set in her ways. She is overly formal and she instantly clashes with the relaxed attitude of the Disney team, who are always on first-name basis with each other. She insists on being called Mrs Travers at all times. The weather in Los Angeles forces her to remember her childhood in Australia and the troubling time with her alcoholic father. Slowly, we get some insight into the Mary Poppins story and that it is a mirror of her past. Her unrelenting way prohibits the film crew from moving forward, and at one point, it seems that the project is doomed before even taking off.
Tom Hanks plays the part of the cheerful and optimistic Walt Disney. Disney and Travers seem to be starkly different from one another. However, Disney is not going to let go of the project due to a promise he made to his children.
Thompson delivers a very strong performance of a woman unable to let go of her past and tortured by an ancient promise made to her father. The focus is on Thompson for most of the film, and rightly so. Despite the seemingly somber background of the film, the events do inspire laughter and Travers’ uptight character helps in creating many of the comic scenes of the film.
As with most Disney films, it ends on a brighter note. Saving Mr Banks succeeds in giving us some insight on the background of the Mary Poppins film. Of course, creative liberty must be given as we all know that film and reality are always different. However, all in all, the film is quite entertaining with great performances from both Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson.