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Winds in the East, mist coming in… Like something is brewing, about to begin.  Can’t put my finger on what lies in store… but I fear what’s to happen, all happened before……. Bert.. Mary Poppins

Last night I went to the cinema to see Saving Mr Banks starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson.  I wish I’d stayed home…only because if I’d watched it at home, I could have had the big, loud cry I wanted to have and my throat wouldn’t be sore this morning from trying to keep the tears at bay.  What an amazing movie.  For those who don’t know, Saving Mr Banks is the story behind Walt Disney’s interpretation of the classic Mary Poppins written by PL Travers.

It tells the story of PL Travers (played by Emma Thompson) and her life growing up in the rough Queensland outback as a little girl (played incredibly well by Annie Rose Buckley).  The story goes back and forth between the early 1900’s Queensland and 1960’s California with a few bits of  England thrown in for good measure.  It is based largely on the production audio tapes which PL Travers insisted on recording during the negotiation process of allowing the rights to the story to make the movie.

I won’t say too much about the storyline as I would hate to ruin such a magnificent movie but will outline it in brief.  Walt Disney (played incredibly well by Tom Hanks) made a promise to his daughters to bring Traver’s book, Mary Poppins to life.  After long, long, long negotiations he finally manages to get her to come to America and tries to secure the rights to the story.  Travers (Emma Thompson) is completely resistant to every suggestion made by the production team and Disney himself as she doesn’t want them to tarnish Mary Poppins with the whimsical style of Disney.

As they get deeper into trying to come to an agreement about the production of the movie, she starts a journey of self discovery as the lines start to blur between her early life and the story itself.  She starts to open herself up to old wounds and realises how closely the character of Mr Banks was  influenced by her own relationship with her alcoholic father (played by Colin Farrell).  That is about all I’m going to say about the storyline as you need to discover this delightful movie for yourself. 

This movie is beautifully filmed and produced and really, would you expect anything less from a Disney production, especially one about the great Walt Disney himself.  I could write all sorts of superlatives about it because I felt them all.  It was superb, delightful, wonderful, spellbinding, stupendous…. but to use the words of Mary Poppins when she can’t find the right word, it was SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPEALIDOCIOUS!

I laughed out loud numerous times along with my fellow theatre goers.  I also cried as I suspect half of them did too.  Most importantly, I recalled my own childhood with a mixture of sadness and joy.  I found that as PL Travers started to relive her childhood, so did I.  Mary Poppins was the very first book I can ever recall reading.  It was around the time of the 1964 movie, I was 3 years old and the world was Mary Poppins mad.  Do you remember those books that came with a 45 record in the back cover?  Every time Tinkerbell rang a bell, you had to turn the page along with the story teller.  I think I probably learned to read because of that book.  I followed along religiously and every word they spoke, I ran my little finger along the line, counting the words so I knew I was almost at the fun “page turning” bit with Tinkerbell.  I clearly remember how magical I thought that book was, but until I watched the movie, that memory had been placed in the dark recesses of my overcrowded adult mind.  It all came flooding back which made this movie experience even more emotional.

I suspect a lot of the older audience felt the same way and, like me, were surprised at the emotion it invoked.  Just seeing Tom Hanks playing Walt  Disney held another tucked away memory.  Sunday nights, dinner over early so we could all crowd around the old black and white tv and watch Disneyland in wide eyed amazement.  Walt always introduced the program with the help of Tinkerbell and we  always sat spellbound to find out what land the show was going to come from.  When it was a cartoon, we all cheered.  I always wanted the stories to come from Fantasyland, the happiest kingdom of them all.  All those memories came flooding back as I watched Hanks sitting at the desk in his portrayal of Walt.

I was concerned to be honest as to how Tom Hanks was going to portray Walt Disney.  I mean, who of us didn’t want Walt to be our dad and Disneyland to be our playground.  This man had a massive influence on my life and my ability to dream.  I didn’t want someone, not even the wonderful Tom Hanks, to ruin his image for me.  He didn’t disappoint.  He portrayed Walt with sympathy, humour and a hard edged business attitude, that in all honesty, he must have had.

Emma Thompson as the cranky author was an absolute delight.  Honestly, does this woman ever set a foot wrong?  She played the uptight Travers with an honesty that actors should take note of.  To watch her face change as Travers started to realise the connection between her own life and that of Mary Poppins was spell binding.

Annie Rose Buckley played the young Helen Goff (Travers real name) and was amazing.  This was not an easy role for a child but she played it with conviction.  The relationship between her and her alcoholic father (Farrell) was bittersweet and was the crux of the whole movie.  It was indeed the basis for the story of Mary Poppins itself.  To watch a child come to terms with the realisation that her idol has feet of clay was heart rending.

I’m not a Colin Farrell fan but he played the role well.  Ruth Wilson played his sweet but nervous wife, Margaret.  Our own Rachel Griffiths played Aunt Ellie who was definitely the real life Mary Poppins.  It was a relatively small yet pivotal role.

There were four cast members who really shone for me.  They played huge but secondary roles in the storyline and their characters were delightful.   Paul Giamatti played the limousine driver assigned to Travers during her LA stay. He played the slightly world weary driver with a heart of gold and an almost Pollyanna outlook on life.  It wasn’t a huge role yet for me, he stole the movie.  Then there was the script writer Don DaGradi and the music and lyrics writers Robert and Richard Sherman played respectively by Bradley Whitford, BJ Novak and Jason Schwartzman.   These 3 provided much of the humour alongside Thompson’s portrayal of the pernickity and overly honest Travers.  These four lesser parts were just a delight.  (I’m running out of superlatives now lol)

Thankfully, the movie didn’t try to introduce a young Julie Andrews or Dick Van Dyke which I think would have spoiled it.  They showed clips of the original movie instead giving the movie even more authenticity. The only really well known person who was portrayed by an actor was Walt himself and Hanks did that job believably.  I loved learning about the way the songs came into being and while many will say that it is just a story line, remember, the story was taken from the audio tapes made out of the meetings with Travers, Disney, DaGrandi and the Shermans.  For a wonderful touch at the end, you can hear the real life Travers and the production team on the actual tapes.  It certainly puts a smile on your face as you leave the theatre.

The whole movie was done with honesty and dignity.  It was a very emotive movie and done in less sensitive hands it may have tried to wring more emotion out of it.  They did it just right.  By balancing the teary moments with an understated humour, you were left clearing your teary throat in the guise of laughter.  It was a beautiful movie.  I will see it again.  I could happily go back again tonight and watch it and I’m sure I would be as enthralled as I was last night.

Of course, much of my delight was due to the fact that Disney has played such a huge part in my life, but I went with my son, his girlfriend and her mother and it had the same effect on all of us, so I don’t think it was just my own interpretation.  I can’t however, discount the flood of memories it brought crashing into the forefront of my mind which someone of a younger generation might not be as moved by.  I’m still in a “fantasyland” today.

Last night I sat in a movie theatre for 2 hours and 5 minutes and, like those Sunday nights crowded around Disneyland, I didn’t move.  I might not have even blinked because I didn’t want to miss any of it.  I felt like I’d only been sitting there for 15 minutes.  It went so quick and I just didn’t want it to end.  It brought back so many memories of the magic of childhood whilst balancing a wonderfully adult story.  I, along with Travers, let my inner child connect with my adult self and it was a delightful reunion.  I cried for Travers but I cried for me too. It’s not often you are treated to a walk back through the magical kingdom of childhood.

If you’ve ever seen and enjoyed a Disney movie, I think you’ll love this.  If you haven’t ever seen and enjoyed a Disney movie, you’ll probably still love it, if you understand earth language, because seriously, what planet have you been on? This is definitely one of the most beautiful and beautifully made movies I’ve seen in a very long time.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.  You must see it.. NOW.. Don’t wait.. Spit Spot!!

Disney productions are always magnificent, this is no exception.  Thank you Walt for the memories and dreams.  And thank you PL Travers for Mary Poppins and my love of reading.  I owe so much to you both.

Happy wishing upon a star… . Livvy 🙂

saving mr banks

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