I was privileged to attend an advance screening of Saving Mr. Banks last week and I have to admit, staying home on that rainy night during this busy season was tempting. But we talk a lot about good mental health on this blog, and going to this movie was a good mental health choice for me.
I’m so glad I opted to attend this depiction of the back story of author P. L. Travers’ negotiations with Walt Disney over the rights and production of her book, Mary Poppins. As a movie-goer I was enthralled by the performances of Emma Thompson (Travers) and Tom Hanks (Disney) although critics contend the Disney/Travers relationship in real life was less amiable and far more complex.
As a writer, the love story between an author and her characters was spot-on. It took some twenty years of begging and cajoling on Disney’s part to get Travers to sign over the movie rights. Granted this is a bit extreme, but Travers’ attachment to her story and her characters rings true. And the extent to which writers use story to work through or perhaps to work unwittingly around the tragedies in their own lives was handled superbly. Through expertly executed flashbacks we learn that Mr. Banks, the character in the book whom fictional nanny Mary Poppins comes to aid, was indeed based on Travers’ own father.
The real drama unfolds as Travers experiences relief and release from the hold her father’s life has on her. While idolizing his whimsical and imaginative nature, she is haunted by his promise “never to leave her” and his battle with the bottle that likely led to his early death. Disney is portrayed in the movie in somewhat of an armchair psychologist mode, using his bumpy relationship with his own father to break through Travers’ curmudgeonly, uncompromising shell. Whether historically accurate or not, it brings the story to a very Disney-like, satisfying conclusion.
You may need a box of Kleenex when you see this movie, due out to the general public December 20th. But writers, you’ll get a chuckle out of this throw back to a bygone (if ever) era. When was the last time your agent made a house call to remind you that your royalties had run out and that it is way past time to sign that movie deal?
I don’t pretend to be an expert on movies, but if you want to see a fascinating story based on facts and performed by a stellar cast, go see Saving Mr. Banks. It is quite Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
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