Sunday, 1 December 2013

REVIEW - SAVING MR. BANKS


A spoonful of medicine does not help the sugar go down, at least not such gargantuan quantities. Rather than relate an interesting story (which, in its narrative structure, this is not), Disney have attempted to bolster their legacy by embellishing it with this flimsy but serviceable film. In this categorial limbo occupied by so many quintessential, if not essential, Disney films, a bland halfway house between comedy and drama, adult- and child-orientated, like an array of brightly coloured lights combining into plain white, Saving Mr. Banks brings us the life of P.L. Travers through her infamous creation Mary Poppins, in two pivotal periods of their relationship. In 1960s Los Angeles, a crabbit Travers rails against Disney studios' attempts to sweeten her story of the flying nanny and decorate it with jolly songs and dancing cartoon penguins. She's a stubborn old biddy, no doubt, but her adversity to the abrasive optimism of her American acquaintances is established in sense; unfortunately, it is they who end up acting less accomodating, as she quite inexplicably softens and submits to what mere moments before she considered an unthinkable bastardisation of her beloved work. Since it's a Disney film, Walt's role in this bizarre process is sporadically shunted in, despite the fact that all the important advancements in the plot occur within the confines of Travers' mind, influenced by her memories of the second of the film's periods: 1900s Australia, where the younger Travers' inspiration for her eventual novel is played out in reality within her own damaged family. Director John Lee Hancock shows little interest in developing these scenes beyond the basic confines of flashback conventions, yet they occupy a considerable chunk of the runtime. And so they become rather boring and repetitive, with heartfelt performances from Ruth Wilson and Rachel Griffiths overlooked and an abominable one from Colin Farrell thrust to the fore. Emma Thompson joins Wilson and Griffiths in providing the film with some nutritional value in her spirited, indelible portrayal of the sour Travers in her 60s.