20160824

A film review: 'Saving Mr. Banks' is a heartfelt rescue mission.

 
Origin: United States, United Kingdom · Language: English
Director: John Lee Hancock · Writers: Kelly Marcel, Sue Smith
Genre: Drama · Release: 2013; Nov 29 (UK), Dec 13 (US)

Casts: Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Paul Giamatti, 
Jason Schwartzman, Collin Farrell

More info: IMDb



Hello, again! This was supposed to be a simple, on-the-nose review (a.k.a. a short review) which is a section within my Facebook page, but turns out I got a lot more to spew off my chest about my latest viewing experience.

This is a rather stellar companion piece to the more whimsical Mary Poppins, the case study of this period drama centering on the making of the said movie anchored by Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks as the backbones of the film, P.L. Travers (the author of Mary Poppins' source material) and Walt Disney (do I even need to tell you who this is?) respectively. You could say it's a prequel of sorts, but not in the traditional sense.

I'd say that this was rather weird angle to use for a biopic/based-on-a-true-story film, but it kinda works, owing to the fact that it totally changed my perspective on what Mary Poppins was really all about all this while; to save Mr. Banks, the father of the two child characters from Mary Poppins from going astray. At first, I really hated Travers for her dismissive behaviour, but as the film moves forward, you can't help but to feel sorry for her because of the tragic backstory that inspired her to write Mary Poppins in which its mood and feel was as sombre as her past life... until Walt Disney showed persistence in his pursuit of getting the story told through the live-action medium (with tiny splashes of animation) in his own signature way and that is happiness, despite showing hints of the classic cutthroat Hollywood producer's bad side in order to secure the rights to her novel. Definitely stellar performances by the two leads. Of course, the supporting players also gave an awesome job at giving this film a little joy and sadness, as well as becoming tiny catalysts for Travers to eventually move forward with her best-selling literature's film adaptation.

On how Travers' backstory relates to Mary Poppins? You have to watch this film to fully understand it. Brilliant back-and-forth time jumps between the setting of the film and flashback sequences depicting Travers' story before becoming a reclusive author. It knows when to go in and when to get out. An okay job on the editing. But to those who expected the more grueling details on the more technical side of the case study's creation? Be prepared to be slightly disappointed, as the film aimed for dramatisation rather than fully exploring the already timid process of adapting the novel and convincing the author to give the rights of her novel to the entertainment mogul.You could say it's a super-abriged retelling of the behind-the-scenes aspects of Mary Poppins told only through the key people behind the musical fantasy flick.

All in all, this is a rather okay period drama film that I thought would initially work better as a documentary rather than a work of fiction. But I gradually changed my mind as the film progresses, because it is indeed an eye-opener on how a creative, silly work such as Mary Poppins or others could touch so many hearts due to its close adherence to the original author's most treasured life story. What Travers and Disney did was true to the (totally paraphrased) saying uttered by the late Malaysian filmmaker Yasmin Ahmad: "You tell stories about what you know." Travers knew that reality is a hard pill to swallow, but Disney also knew that you cannot dwell on the past too long, especially if it's a bitter one. An effective angle taken by the filmmakers indeed. 
 
P/S: Good job, John Lee Hancock, on marketing the Disney name without resorting to the feature-length advertisement approach, but instead instilling the good-old family friendly image everyone know and love about the earlier years of the production company.

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