Saving Mr Banks
Having masterminded the big screen adventures of Nanny McPhee, Emma Thompson turns her gaze toward another nanny in this story of the clash of personalities behind Disney’s attempts to adapt Mary Poppins for the silver screen.
Steeped in whimsy and charm, Saving Mr. Banks eschews its true story base and focuses more on the balance between comedic interplay and harrowing trauma, laying the bulk of the work squarely on the (more than capable) shoulders of Thompson. Thompson has always been a comedic tour-de-force waiting for her time in the limelight, so it’s with a great ray of sunshine that that time is finally here – with Banks providing a vehicle for her to play gleefully off of an equally funny and charming cast (genuinely, each scene plays as an almost “Emma Thompson versus…” challenge) whilst still retaining enough dramatic meat to keep the film from descending into high-brow parody.
Having made a career out of playing some of the most likeable characters in the world of fiction, Hanks is a natural choice for the role of Walt Disney; his performance one of car-salesman charm, some “gee shucks” earnestness and a healthy dose of the happy concierge (trademarked by Hector Elizondo) all rolled into one slick Brylcreamed package. Hanks’ interplay with Thompson is one of the year’s genuine highlights, every moment a delightful chuckle, and a more mature answer to the Hanks/Meg Ryan dynamic of previous decades.
It’s hard to pick fault with any of the cast – Paul Giamatti earns a smile with every line and Thompson’s trio of collaborators (Jason Schwartzman, the US Office’s B.J. Novak and the always superb Bradley Whitford) form a put-upon yet hilarious team that are hard not to find the highlight of an already endearing and very charming tale.
It’s tempting to call Farrell the film’s weak link; but, while he may be slumming it somewhat, it’s the very mawkish flashbacks sequences to which his character is confined that drag the narrative down and put a damper on proceedings. Whilst they do veer close on occasion to tugging at the heart strings (and, believe me, the film’s release date is very telling in that regard), they feel like they belong to a different film entirely and ultimately just don’t gel with what is otherwise a very witty and wholeheartedly loveable comedic drama.
Catch Van Connor’s reviews in our Movies section and live on Slam Dunk Cinema every Saturday at 12PM on Sheffield Live! 93.2FM or on the podcast via iTunes.
Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Paul Giamatti
John Lee Hancock