Saving Mr. Banks

I had hoped to see Saving Mr. Banks at our local theater, but by the time it came to town, I was so sick I didn’t really care. I also didn’t want to share what I’d come down with, but mostly I just wanted to sleep.

Four months later, I finally got a chance to watch it.

I tend to enjoy most films about authors, and this one had the bonus of starring Tom Hanks. It’s just my opinion, but that man has more talent than anyone in the history of film making. Ever. It didn’t hurt that Colin Farrell was in it, too. He’s very pretty to look at.

So…  What did I think of the movie?

At first, I thought I was going to hate it. P.L. Travers was an incredibly unpleasant person. Rude, unfriendly, bad tempered, rude, obnoxious, selfish. Did I mention rude? (If she hasn’t already won it, Emma Thompson deserves an Oscar for this performance!)

If I’d been Walt Disney, I’m afraid I’d have personally stuffed the woman into cab, sent her on her way, and started searching for some other story to turn into a screenplay.

Fortunately, the writers dealt with her awful disposition by including flashbacks to Ms. Travers’ life as a child and, more importantly, her relationship with her father, her inspiration for Mr. Banks.

Her father was also the reason she refused to sell movie rights to Mr. Disney for two decades. I believe she was afraid he would come across as cold, uncaring man on the big screen.

In other words, Ms. Travers ignored one very important rule authors should never break. Once the story is told, once the story is published, it’s no longer our baby, it’s a product. A bunch of papers bound together in a cover, slapped on the shelves at the corner bookstore, and sold to any shopper who has the money to buy it. It’s not that we can’t still love it, but we have to let it go and move on to the next story that needs telling.

Except she never reached the place where Mary Poppins was merely a product. It was always about her dad, and she couldn’t bear for anyone to turn the novel into something that might make a joke out of her memories of him.

We all know the ending to this story. Ms. Travers did sell the movie rights to Walt Disney. Mary Poppins was made, became a hit – and is still hugely popular almost fifty years later.

What makes this movie special is how it all came into being. From our first glimpse of the crotchety Ms. Travers, to sitting in on the planning sessions (which she turned into nightmares for the writers), to watching the events that inspired her to write the book in the first place.

I won’t say anymore about it, just that it’s a remarkable film. I went from irritable and ready to turn it off about half an hour into it, to curious, to smiling and crying by the end. If a movie can send my emotions all over the charts like this one did, it’s worth telling others about it.

Have you seen Saving Mr. Banks yet? If so, what did you think? Would you have been able to work with someone like P.L. Travers for more than five minutes? I know I wouldn’t have been able to – no matter how much I enjoyed her book.

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