re:View – Saving Mr. Banks

It seems that the only films I get to see at the cinema these days are about mismatched pairings. Last month I saw Rush, about the playboy James Hunt facing off with the scientist Niki Lauda. This month I get to see Saving Mr Banks, which is about the fun loving Walt Disney, played by Tom Hanks, and the up herself PL Travers, played by Emma Thompson.

We see the poor PL Travers being forced into going across the pond to make her book into a movie. Over there she is faced with constantly happy people who are determined to make her movie great, with lots of happy songs.

This book turns out to be what is now seen as a children’s classic. This is sadly one of the film’s flaws. The book’s identity is a secret for the first twenty minutes, just saying this mysterious leading lady is part of Travers’ family. Then it reveals the big secret and the film waits for a few seconds while you take it in. Except, of course, you knew that because in the title of the film is one of the main characters of said book and film.

That doesn’t stop the first half a film being a big jolly. With all the stereotypical big smile Americans being shocked by the British lady’s rudeness, it feels like the film should be a feature length 70s sitcom. Not that I’m bashing it for that, 70s sitcoms were brilliant and this part of the film is easily the best; seeing some happy go lucky movie makers singing along is quite simply a hoot.

The weird parts of the film are the flashbacks. In random segments we get taken further back into the past to see the Goff family with particular focus on Travers (Colin Farrell) playing with his daughter Helen. These flashbacks get darker and darker as the film progress, and the big issue is revealed.

Unfortunately, the film towards the end isn’t sure what it wants to be. On one hand it’s the delightfully fun 70s sitcom; but on the other it’s this tale of the effect of guilt and duality. Director John Lee Hancock is obviously fascinated by both sides of the story, but isn’t sure what he likes best. Therefore he puts both styles in a blender and hopes for the best.

In the hands of an expert director, this could have worked. It seems that Hancock though, is not yet an expert director. In his hands, the story just jumps around too much and because you’ve been chortling a few seconds earlier, you can’t really take the dark bits at all seriously.

That isn’t to say Saving Mr Banks is a bad film. It certainly succeeds in many places, and the performances are superb. Tom Hanks once again pulls off that hugely likeable person performance again, and Emma Thompson is delightful as the miserable PL Travers. Colin Farrell is sadly not given much to work with, but when he is given the chance to act, he does it brilliantly.

So should you see it? Well if you’re a fan of cheesy but likable comedy you’ll find a lot to like about this. It’s just a shame it doesn’t go all out and enjoy its cheesiness.

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