PL Travers, the creator of magical nanny Mary Poppins, needs to raise some cash. Her agent therefore suggests that she renew negotiations with Walt Disney, who has been trying unsuccessfully for many years to acquire the rights to turn the Mary Poppins stories into a film. Travers is not keen, as she is certain that her characters will not be interpreted faithfully. Nevertheless, she makes the journey to Los Angeles to meet Mr Disney. Once there, she agrees to be involved in writing the screenplay for the movie, but she has many stipulations about it; no red, no animation, no whimsy. Her relationship with the other writers is strained as they fail to grasp the extent to which Travers’ creations are personal to her, plus she is disdainful and dismissive of Disney’s fantasy worlds. After a troubled journey the film version of ‘Mary Poppins’ is finally released. This story is interspersed with flashbacks to Travers’ past as the daughter of an alcoholic, growing up in the Australian town of Allora. It is through these recollections that the autobiographical nature of Travers’ characters becomes apparent, explaining her deep emotional attachment to them.
I bought ‘Saving Mr Banks‘ from the bargain bucket at the supermarket. Having watched it, I wish I’d kept my £3. No doubt that sounds harsh, but this film, based loosely around a true story, did nothing for me at all.
Emma Thompson is one of my favourite actors, but I found her portrayal of PL Travers to be contrived and over-acted. Reading around the subject of the real Travers, I have discovered that the author was probably not a likeable person, but in ‘Saving Mr Banks’ she appeared as a collection of exaggerated personality traits rather than a complete person. It was also difficult to associate the young Travers, a pretty and engaging young girl who adored her father, with the socially inept, bossy and lonely person she became as an adult. Notwithstanding the traumatic effects of childhood events, an adult as weird as PL Travers must have been a pretty odd kid! Tom Hanks puts in a credible performance as Walt Disney but it was stretching the point to expect me to believe that after 20 years of discussions, the difficulties between himself and Travers were resolved after his one visit to the UK.
So, a big disappointment. Rather than a spoonful of sugar, I felt as if I needed half a bottle of whisky and two tranquilisers to help this movie go down!