Each and every little boy and girl needs a hero – most likely would either be the mom or the dad. PL Travers, the author of Mary Poppins and lead character in this movie, was depicted as an adoring daughter of a doting alcoholic father as her hero. Yet, the movie succeeded to move me to both laugh and tears, in spite of all the controversy surrounding the author’s personal life – just googled PL Travers and there’s a long list of movie reviews and blogs that never fail to include her dark background. I personally like the NYT’s review here: ‘Saving Mr. Banks,’ With Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson
Whatever fondness I reserve for Emma Thompson’s version of PL Travers, I agreed with the reviewer’s statement on the movie: “It also indulges in the common biographical fallacy of grounding adult creativity in childhood misery.”
The movie is perfectly Disney, with heaps – not a spoonful, mind you – of sugar. Emma Thompson’s performance is absolutely flawless. I can imagine her as stiff-upper-lip as the book version of Mary Poppins yet beloved by the kids. Not to forget the rest of the cast, especially the bits of musical entertainment provided by the Sherman brothers, played by Jason Schwartzman and BJ Novak.
I can’t say anything bad of Tom Hanks’ performance’ his representation of Walt Disney is believable, but compared to Thompson’s , not as relatable. Who knows, probably the real Disney was as standoffish as the movie version, given that he did actually refuse to invite PL Travers to Mary Poppin’s Hollywood movie premiere. Also, Paul Giamatti as the limo driver, Ralph, is a nice addition. While fictional, his character is as Disney as it gets, providing the much needed emotional support to Thompson’s character, as well as the intended movie audience.The emotional tug from low to high to low is very well represented throughout the movie by Sherman brothers’ beloved tunes such as ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee,’ ‘Feed the Birds,’ and ‘Let’s Go Fly a Kite.’
Toward the end of the movie, there’s a scene when Mrs. Travers was so taken by Bert’s conversation with Jane Banks about her father, and it is so sad I couldn’t help myself to weep with the little girl Mrs. Travers once was: Helen Goff. I wept for myself, for having such a mother as Mr. Banks instead of a father. I wept for my nephew who lost his father and has to find another hero in some other characters in his lifetime. Yet I have this conviction that ‘Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down;’ and we all should ‘finish the story, have a life that is not dictated by the past.’
— Tom Hanks as Walt Disney, Saving Mr. Banks.