The story of the British Nanny, who flew onto Cherry Tree Lane with her talking umbrella, is as practically perfect as the story behind Mary Poppins.
Disney’s Saving Mr Banks is a spoon-full-of-sugar coated retelling of the life of P.L. Travers – the author of Mary Poppins – and her reluctant agreement to put her story through the Hollywood machine.
When Walt Disney (Tom Hanks), made a promise to his daughters to turn their treasured book into a movie, he didn’t realise it would take him 20 years to convince tenacious Travers (Emma Thompson) to sign over the rights.
The movie steps back in time, depicting Travers’ impoverished childhood in Australia. It is the poignancy of this untold true story that becomes the central thrust as we realise the inspiration for Poppins derived from her own turbulent upbringing; where her father Robert Travers Goff (Collin Farrell) becomes an alcoholic and a fermented dreamer, leading to his dismissal from his role as a Bank Manager and alas much worse.
It may be apt to say that Travers wrote the story as a rehabilitation fantasy of a fictional family that represented her own – and the help they never received in time.
After 20 unyielding years of long distant and essentially one-sided negotiations over the movie rights, Disney finally has her flown in from London to meet for the first time in Burbank Studios, California – in the hopes that she will be entranced by his charm.
He tells of his promise to his daughters: “I’ve never gone back on one of my promises. That’s what being a daddy is all about.” And Travers flippantly snaps: “Is it?”
She argues: “I know what you’re going to do with her – she’ll be cavorting, and twinkling”, before adding that there should be no animation and certainly no music throughout the movie. But persnickity as she is, she agrees to work on the screenplay with Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford) and songwriters, The Sherman Brothers (Jason Schwartzman and B J Novak) and finally becomes moved by its sentiment; with ‘Let’s Go Fly a Kite’ moving her the most.
Why Travers was so averse to the idea of having her Nanny “fly of the pages off her books” is beyond Disney. Subsequently, she becomes aware that he has ignored her caveats, so she takes the first flight back to London.
Disney catches up with her on the same night in London, and while Travers is unable to forgive herself, all it takes is a spot of tea in her own home to exorcise the childhood demon that still haunts her.
The magical movie maker reassures her: “George Banks will be honoured. George Banks will be redeemed.” He tells her to let it go and concludes: “George Banks and all he stands for will be saved – maybe not in life, but in imagination. Because that’s what we storytellers do, we restore order with imagination. We instil hope again and again and again.”
This movie consumes the right amount of sugar to help the medicine go down.
In a word it’s – how does Poppins put it? It’s… supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.