Saving Mr. Banks feels like a manufactured piece of self-promotion, but it’s a good film that cannot be ignored despite its potentially self-indulgent making. John Lee Hancock’s film centers on P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), an English writer who travels to the United States to work with Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) and Co. on an adaptation of her novel, Mary Poppins. Travers is a reluctant, stubborn sort that doesn’t care for the American way of doing things, and she’s turned off by the nature of Disney and his men’s hopes for producing the film. The film intersperses flashbacks to her childhood in between scenes with her tearing apart the plans for this film adaptation, and it makes the film a bit haphazard in structure. It’s confident in its messiness. The flashbacks produce a strong turn by Colin Farrell as Travers’ father, and Thompson is exceptional in the lead. She brings a heart to the role that proves her as the most underrated actress working today. Hanks, once again, flies under the radar until one of the film’s final scenes, where he delivers a brilliantly moving monologue that encapsulates much of the film. This is far from perfect filmmaking, and a bit pat-on-the-back for Disney, but it’s a powerfully moving feature because of its evocation of the magic of Disney’s golden age of filmmaking.
Grade: ★★★★ (out of 5)