Saving Mr. Banks is the telling of Walt Disney’s journey to get the film rights to the book Mary Poppins written by P.L. Travers. This story is periodically interrupted by P.L. Travers flashbacks to when she was a girl growing up in Australia with her family, particularly focused on her well-meaning, loving but alcoholic father. The major tensions are between Walt and Mrs. Travers as each tries to make sure they get to have the last word as what the film will look like AND P.L. Travers guilt over the death of her father.
The film actually makes PL Travers more lovable and acceptable that what she was in real life. She had a miserable life as well as made other people’s lives around her miserable. She adopted a son who was a twin and refused to adopt the other one. Refused. The son would grow up and leave her at 17 saying – she is unfit to be a parent of any kind. Travers dies at 96, alone. Her granddaughter is quoted as saying – “She lived alone and unloved, she died alone and unloved.” Pretty harsh.
There are some incredible scenes in this film. They weave together the two stories so well, blending the musical numbers in practice with the real memories of P.L. Travers.
Travers and Disney’s understanding of what it means to be a dad also clash as well. Disney – no real surprise – has a ‘Disneyland Dad’ kind of understanding – we keep promises, we make wishes come true. Later we are going to learn that he actually has a much deeper understanding of dad.
I love that Traver’s remembrance of her dad isn’t jaded one way or the other. We get the fun moments and the harsh moments, she remembers him getting fired at the bank, drunk at the fair as well as him playing with her around the farm.
The last act of the film is superb. The scene between Walt and Travers at her house is the best in the film. I won’t spoil it for you. Just watch and enjoy.
Great film, lots to unpack but it’s fascinating to see two people with hard upbringings handle their hardship in such different manners. Disney refused to be brought down by it. Travers embraced the realism, the darkness. Disney saw every story as an opportunity to be redeemed, retold. Travers – every story has a dark side. Disney – whether it was by his faith or by creed – chose forgiveness. Even forgiving Travers to some extent.
Highly recommend this film.