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Byron Shire
May 13, 2021

Saving Mr. Banks

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At its priceless best, art – even in the form of a mainstream movie from despised Hollywood – may provide a cathartic experience for the recipient.

For the artist, its effect can be doubly so.

JL Travers, creator of  Mary Poppins,  grew up in rural Queensland, the daughter of a dissolute Irish bank manager (Colin Farrell). The abiding love she had for her father and the heartbreak of his death when she was still young was the hidden catalyst for her iconic book.

Walt Disney, his entertainment empire booming, was at pains to attain the rights to film the story. A reluctant but broke Travers was flown to Los Angeles and negotiations between the two epitomised more than just a clash of old and new cultures.

Travers, prim and proper and contemptuous of animation, came with emotional baggage that Disney, the businessman committed to his own all-conquering visions, was unable to unlock.

Being driven to the studios and complaining about the heat, Travers tells her chauffeur ‘rain gives life’. ‘So does sunshine,’ he replies.

The Americans’ world-view was one to which Travers’s inflexibility and, more importantly, her past, to which she was stuck like a barnacle, would not let her bend – there was simply too much for her to let go of.

In Saving Mr. Banks, Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks are terrific as the immoveable object and the irresistible force, but it is the game-breakers in the middle who provide the movie with its essential life force and vibrant positivity.

Anybody who has seen  Mary Poppins  will immediately recall at least a few of its songs, but only cine-buffs would be able to tell you the names of the composers, so it is a great thing that the Sherman brothers, Richard and Robert (Jason Schwartzman and BJ Novak) are belatedly paid their public dues.

Mrs Travers is won over by an office rendition of  Let’s go fly a kite,  and I was blown away too.

The happiest kingdom of them all often rises from the ashes of despair.

Go see this. It’s pure art and soul.

~ John Campbell

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  1. Not usually a fan of American cinema (especially Disney flummery), I watched ‘Saving Mr Banks’ because it was allegedly a story about an Aussie author.

    While the tale itself may have been (barely!) interesting enough to keep me watching to the end, it was the beginning that had me bothered.

    The opening scene, allegedly of northern Queensland, was a panned sky full of the heads of tall palm trees – of a type not found in northern Queensland but found in the US.

    In the next scene, wherein the family leaves their suburban home to move to the country, the houses depicted are again like nothing seen on Australian soil; they are patently American domestic architecture.

    That was followed by a journey on a Queensland train – again, of a type never seen on Aussie rails but typical of old US trains.

    Australia received no mention in the extensive credits (although there was credit given to a UK crew for the parts shot there), so one can only assume that Disney “cheaped out” by shooting the Oz scenes in a US studio.

    So typical of America’s ignorance of much beyond its own borders: Australia is treated as being merely another state of the Union.

    Disney have been told.


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