Recently: “Saving Mr. Banks”

IMG_0374.JPGThe biopic isn’t new for Disney, but most never seem to be all that interesting. Each tries to be almost magical and inspiring, but really, are just dramatic tales about someone, or something you’ve never heard of.

This Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures film “Saving Mr. Banks”, is still a film about a moment in history you probably haven’t heard of, but it truly sparkles and shines in a way most others don’t.

This biopic stars Emma Thompson (“Effie Gray”, “The Love Punch”), Tom Hanks (“Toy Story That Time Forgot”, “Toy Story of Terror”), Colin Farrell (upcoming ssn 2 “True Detective”, upcoming “Miss Julie”), Paul Giamatti (“The Amazing Spider-Man 2”, “Downton Abbey”), Jason Schwartzman (upcoming “Big Eyes”, “The Grand Budapest Hotel”), Bradley Whitford (upcoming “Happyish”, “Transparent”), Annie Rose Buckley (“Home and Away”), Ruth Wilson (“The Affair”, “Luther”), B.J. Novak (“The Newsroom”, “Community”), Rachel Griffiths (“House Husbands”, “Camp”) and Kathy Baker (“Those Who Kill”, “Return to Zero”).

The film is directed by John Lee Hancock (“The Blind Side”, “The Alamo”) and written by Kelly Marcel (upcoming Fifty Shades of Grey”, “Terra Nova”) and Sue Smith (“Mabo”, “Bastard Boys”).

The film originally opened Dec. 13, 2013 in limited released and later opened wider on Dec. 20. The film would go on to be nominated for one Academy Award, one Golden Globe, and one Screen Actors Guild Award among many other nominations and wins.

Contrary to what the trailer for this film seemed to show, there really wasn’t much to be joyous about, let alone happy. Sure there were some quirky fun moments shown, but there seemed to be a lot of the drama lacking. A few bits stood out when I watched it again, but mostly they were absent. This isn’t your typical Disney produced film, so if you went in thinking there’d be far more happiness, revolving around the early stages of creating one of the most iconic and beloved films ever made, “Mary Poppins”.

Thompson was everything for this movie. I was thinking about it after having watched it, and realized that her character alone had to carry just about every single kind of emotion. From a film standpoint, I don’t think I’ve felt so much sadness than what was presented here. It wasn’t just that I could understand it and see it, but most of the time, I felt what she was feeling. This goes beyond just feeling something for her character.

Along with this, Thompson managed to somehow be a very funny and enjoyable woman to watch. Her character is a very no nonsense type of person, but not so much because it’s by the book, it’s more because she knows what she wants, and has no time for all these extra things, most of which don’t make sense. I was laughing at just the type of person she is, and not because it’s over the top, or almost caricature like, or something else, but because it was executed so genuinely. That’s the thing with Thompson in this film, she’s completely honest, open and real. But, it also makes sense, as she’s having to weight the pros and cons of handing over the rights to her book, all for a film and financial stability. This is, surprisingly an area where the screenwriters succeeded, as well as everyone else.

The flashbacks were handled in probably the best way I’ve ever seen. Each flashback was very much organic. They weren’t just thrown in because we needed to know what’s pushing the emotions of Thompson’s character or why the books, and characters in the books, are so important to her. They also never slowed the pacing down to me. The story allowed for certain moments in the present day to bring her past to the front. And instead of solely watching her get emotional, we could spend a few wonderful moments in her past, however sad these may be. Interestingly enough, with these flashbacks, there was just as full a story told with great performances from everyone. It’s just unfortunate, that while you may be enjoying the present day stuff, the childhood portions had to be really sad. One moment you’re pleased, maybe laughing a bit, and the next you may be on the verge of tears. Certainly one could get misty eyed from it all.

Hanks I discovered I liked him. He, much like Thompson, didn’t look remotely like themselves, and could thus be these people even more convincingly. But, for Hanks, it helps that this film was produced by Disney anyway. While this is a specific portion of his life, and brief overall, you didn’t have to be off put by any of the real antics or beliefs that Walt Disney really possessed. He definitely had his moments of frustration, but if it weren’t for his desperate want to make this film, he wouldn’t have been as nice and somewhat approachable. I certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed Hanks’ performance overall, or his inclusion in the film.

Newman’s score, now having heard it in the film itself, is even more amazing than I thought. It was playful and sometimes happy, enough throughout most of it, but also, dramatic. The bits that got you the most were accompanying really emotional scenes. These were the ones that, as one would expect, moved me the most. Overall I was just surprised by how much I could love listening to the score in this film, and how well it brought even more emotion and depth to the film overall.

And lastly there’s the way the time period was approached. From costumes to various set decorations, everything look authentic. I was captivated by how much went into bringing this world, of yesteryear, to life. Overall, it helped to keep me invested in the people portrayed. There was just so much color and life around, not to mention beauty, to get lost in, that I didn’t want to leave. Take, for instance, when Thompson and Hanks go to Disneyland. That was impressive! It’s not remotely the same place you may have gone to a few weeks ago, or that I last saw only days into the new year of 2008, but that of the 1960s. While they were only in a small area, the look was phenomenal. I’ve never seen pictures of the parks early days, so I’m assuming it looked something like that, which only makes me wish that they’d do something like that every few years. They decorate for Christmas and Halloween, why not as a kind of throwback? I do believe, that this may be the first time, in a long time, that I’ve been super excited to see a Disney film or live in a world created by, or representing Disney. I loved this film that much.

A few days ago, when I had extra movie channels, my only thought was, “look at that, ‘Saving Mr. Banks’ is being shown.” For one main reason I was super excited. It’s one of two final films to see on the 2014 Academy Awards nominees list that I have. Okay, two. I hadn’t seen it yet, and I really wanted to. Now I have. As I kept watching it, I knew I’d made a good choice. It’s rare for this to happen, especially with Disney and consistently, but when it does, it’s a wonderful thing. I wonder if “Into the Woods” will be a wonderful experience or be that of “Maleficent”, just blah.

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