As I mentioned earlier, I had some solid plans to make my Christmas as Disney-ish as possible, and taking my family to see Saving Mr. Banks was the most appropriate way to end the day. We watched the Disney Christmas Parade, I received a few Disney inspired gifts myself (such as a beautiful mug from my sister!), and after we stuffed ourselves full of Christmas dinner, we rolled our way down to the movie theater to see the newest Disney movie together.
Let me begin by saying, the movie went down a path that I wasn’t fully expecting. What I was most looking forward to was Tom Hanks’ portrayal as Walt Disney, and some insight as to how Walt (not Mr. Disney, as he mentions in the movie!) might have been to work for. On that end, the movie did disappoint a little.
Don’t get me wrong, the character of Walt Disney was fabulous. He didn’t recite magical quotes in everyday conversation or try to prescribe some imaginative cure to P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) à la Disney-movie-solutions. He was very real, and Hank’s did an excellent job portraying Disney as a businessman who was chasing a dream. His compelling plea near the end of the movie where he explains to Travers how he can relate to her nearly brought me to tears. Still, I wish that he could have been in the movie more than he was. But that critique is merely my confession of how big of Tom Hanks fan I am.
One of the great segments of the movie involved the Sherman Brothers characters, played by B.J. Novak (yep, the intern from the TV show The Office) and Robert Schwartzman.
This gave the audience the behind-the-scenes making of Mary Poppins that I believed the bulk of the movie was about. My favorite scene is when Richard Sherman (Schwartzman) is writing the song “Feed the Birds“, Walt Disney’s favorite song. There’s a real touching moment between him and Walt where you really feel that urgency that this movie really may not have happened, and if it hadn’t, it would have broken a few grown men’s hearts. This scene shed light on how important this film was to not just Disney, but to the others who were trying so hard to make this film happen, too.
And now to the star of the movie, whose past and present life was threaded throughout the film, P.L. Travers.
Let me start off by saying that this woman had some serious traumatic issues that she never dealt with. The character Mary Poppins was a shield for Travers – no, more of a buffer that kept the past pains from her childhood away. While in the beginning Travers appears to be a real pain-in-the-butt, as the movie unfolds, you begin to sympathize with Travers more and more. Her connection with Mary Poppins is so strong that Disney nearly has to physically tear the character from her heart. It was amazing to learn how much Mary Poppins meant to Travers, and to understand the origins of this magical nanny.
By the end of the film, I was in tears. I wanted to apologize to Travers for hating her so much in the beginning. I understand why the film was so heavily focused on Travers, and now that I realize the film was a story about her life, because Mary Poppins is her life, I might enjoy the film more a second time.
All in all, this movie is much different than any Disney movie I have ever seen. There is more frustration, more delusions, but still it includes its fair share of magic. If you think that the character of Travers and her nagging is exaggerated, take my advice and stay through the credits. You’ll hear some real audio-recording of her during their rehearsal sessions, but at that point, you’ll probably be laughing. Travers was her own woman, who stayed true to her heart. I will leave you with one warning though. It might be difficult to ever watch the Mary Poppins movie the same again!