Saving Mr. Banks

Emma Thompson was robbed of her Oscar nomination for her complex portrayal of Mary Poppins' author PL Travers in this slightly schmaltzy and mildly draggy, but ultimately feel good movie. With a notable performance by Colin Farrell, the always reliable everyday-man Tom Hanks, a mostly smart/witty script and an upliftingly melancholic score by John Williams. For fans of the 1964 Julie Andrew's movie, some scenes will surely bring smile to the face.

John Lee Hancock directed a 2 hours long movie that took almost 1 hour to finally find its legs. The set up of the mystery as to why Mrs Travers was so reluctant to let go of the rights took too much screen time. That first half spent too much time making her to be a tough cookie, and the backstory took a bit too long to bring to the crux of the matter. Luckily, in the present we had Thompson, and in the past we had Farrell to anchor the stories and kept us engrossed as the plot meandered and wavered. Walt Disney was obviously scrubbed clean in a rather one-sided portrayal, but luckily he is not the focus of the movie.

The screenplay by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith was smart and witty at most times, except when they delved into the backstory where they started to lose focus. The spotlight kept wavering between the relationship of young Travers and her father, and the story of Travers herself. But the moments of foreshadowing and callbacks to the 1964 movie were smartly written.

Thompson was astounding and either Bullock or Streep should have been left out instead. PL Travers was written as a very complex character, and Thompson had to dig deep to discover her well of sadness and even deeper to find that seed of optimism. This complexity was conveyed expertly by Thompson in her subtlety, her furrowed brows, and her slight body language. Despite the winding script that took half the movie duration to finally find its legs, we are always interested in PL Travers' backstory and it's all thanks to Thompson's convincing acting.

Farrell was surprisingly good and gave one of his performances. An understated role that brought out the sentimentality behind Farrell's usual debonair, suave appearance. And it is thankfully for him that the backstory was tolerable and not overtly schmaltzy.

Hanks was his usual reliable self, but he had a couple of scenes which he stood out. Mainly when he was not playing a straight up vanilla good guy.

Rachel Griffiths was a pleasant sight, pity she was on screen too short.

John Williams' score was definitely oscar-worthy, but perhaps lost out to Gravity's Steven Price because there were some snippets that seemed to derived from the original movie. Nonetheless, the themes conveyed the hope and optimism buried within a melancholic strain with tinges of magic.

A good movie that pays off in the end after enduring a slow start, but worth it nonetheless for the very oscar-worthy performance by Emma Thompson.

Stay tune to after the credits for a little surprise that was hinted to in the movie itself.

Have a look at this BBC documentary to find out more about the true story of PL Travers and the making of Mary Poppins.


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