Sunday, February 09, 2014

Saving Mr Banks: The making of Mary Poppins, the clash of stereotypically prudish Biritsh and heartwarming Americans, a troubled, repressed, sad P.L. Travers and a sad and happy Walt Disney


Saving Mr Banks is a Hollywood film, which plays on the predictable thing without being too non-factual. The fictional element of course predominates but there is recognizable truth in it all. Pamela Travers (Emma Watson) is the typically repressed British woman writer of of Australian-Irish origin with a troubled childhood with a lovable alcoholic father who is a failure in life played wonderfully by Colin Farrel who is attached to his daughter Helen/Ginty (Annie Rose Buckley). Then we have the Disney team with the nearly infantile but in retrospect heart-warming American optimism and cheerfulness of the Disney team as pitted against the Old World/British/Irish warmth, pessimism born out of the Australian pioneer experience of the Travers family.
It is an argument for the importance of imagination in the face of an unfriendly universe, with a hint of escapism in all this. One gets the feeling that Disney, Disneyland and American are built on the basis of escapism and that escapism can be turned into a viable business proposition. To do so, you need real stories and those stories can only be written by people who have experienced the harsh world. That is why, there is need for people like P(pamela) Travers! Walt Disney brings in his own experience of a hard childhood but his optimism remains undimmed because America is a land of opportunity in a way that Australia and England are not.
Tom Hanks carries the role of Walt Disney very well, and Emma Watson is indeed excellent as Pamela Travers, the creator of Mary Poppins. But the one who literally steals the show is Annie Rose Buckley, as the younger Pamela/Helen Goff, with her sweet, sensitive face and expressions. The flashbacks of the childhood of family are wonderful counter to the simple American exuberance of the film studios in California. Colin Farrel as the father of Pamela/Helen gives a powerful performance.
Making a movie about the making of a movie is tricky but this one works superbly. Only Americans can do this so well.

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