SAVING MR. BANKS, 2013
Director: John Lee Hancock
Stars: Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Colin Farrell, Rachel Griffiths
Review by Matthew Toffolo
Author P.L. Travers travels from London to Hollywood as Walt Disney Pictures adapts her novel Mary Poppins for the big screen.
What I Loved About This Film:
John Lee Hancock's direction. This man has the amazing ability to make sentimental movies (The Rookie, The Blind Side) that don't venture into the "hamminess" that it could easily jump into. In every movie he's made, I reluctantly admit I've teared up a bit because his emotional scenes have always surprised me and I never, never see them coming. I'm taken into the 'based on true events' world he creates and have always felt an original human connection on screen.
All his movies so far have endings that most of the viewing audience already knows before they sit down. The 35 year old rookie makes it to the big leagues with the help of his loving family in 'The Rookie'. The giant man-child Michael Ohr makes it to University and then the NFL with the help of his loving adopted family in 'The Blind Side'. And P.L. Travers overcomes her darkened childhood and Mary Poppins does become a movie despite all the obstacles in its way between herself and the Disney creative team she works with.
Hancock gives us another movie that's for all ages. He ventures into darkened worlds, mainly about parental relationships gone wrong, but not enough that a 10 year old kid can't handle. And perhaps these moments, like the flashback scenes of P.L. Travers' family dynamics when she grew up, are good for kids to watch. It's not that the parents are bad people per se, but are stuck within their own demons that they can't escape. They want to be good parents, but just can't make it.
Hancock is becoming the master as making 'based on a true story' movies. And no one probably knows who he is.
What I Really Liked About This Film:
Tom Hanks. He is the understated actor of our generation and I don't think he gets enough credit for it. Playing an iconic man like Walt Disney, he could have easily overperformed the character and got a little over-the-top at times. But he stays within himself and it sets up his great speech in the end. It wouldn't have worked if he was more caricature and not enough character. And his speech is the movie and if it didn't work, then the ending would have suffered.
And Emma Thompson ain't too shabby herself. I wouldn't be surprised if she won a Best Actress Oscar for this performance. And that would be back to back for Mr. Hancock as he directed Sandra Bullock to best actress gold in his last film.
What I Didn't Like So Much in This Film:
This is my issue 100%. The 10 pound elephant in the room whenever Walt Disney was in a scene. His anti-Jewish stand is well documented and I kept wonderng if this guy was actually a racist or not and why he hated them so much (or perhaps he didn't). And it kept me from enjoying myself during the film some of the time. Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg I hear are good friends. So I wonder if Hanks seeked out Mr. Spielberg's thoughts on playing Disney. Did he approve?