Saving Mr. Banks (2013)

saving_mr_banksBy: Matt Conway (A Toast) –

The holidays are here, which means Award season is hitting its prime. Most awards such as The Golden Globes have already handed out their nominations, all leading up to the Oscar nominations which come out early next month. When looking at other award nominations, there seems to be a few front-runners like 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, and Gravity, and also a few other films in the thick of the race. One of the movies that is seemingly losing momentum is Saving Mr. Banks. 

After having hype behind it for months on end, the film really seemed to have lost its steam, only getting one Golden Globes nomination. The film seemingly missed a Best Picture nomination, as other less-hyped films like Philomena, August: Osage Country, and Rush were nominated before it. Even most other awards are playing little attention to the film, as it’s largely only earning a few nominations. When you think about a movie that has Tom Hanks playing Walt Disney and based around the making of a classic in Mary Poppins, it is a huge surprise that it’s not earning those nominations. Honestly, Saving Mr. Bank is really deserving, as its one of the year’s better movies.

Saving Mr. Banks follows author P.L. Travers, who finds herself in a struggle as her book Marry Poppins is being adapted into a Disney film. As the process goes on, Travers begins to learn more about herself and confronts her past.

A Toast

One of those directors that seemingly has yet to find himself is John Lee Hancock. With his film’s The Rookie, The Alamo, and The Blind Side, he provided competent direction that never really wowed anyone. This is by far Hancock’s best effort yet behind the directorial chair.

Hancock is the equivalent of a quarterback, managing the movie and its themes while keeping it moving throughout. Hancock really nails a lot of the aspects that can be under looked by many. He is able to manage a perfectly balanced tone and a brisk pace, while adding stylistic touches of his own. There is a really great balance here, and Hancock’s effort should be in the talks for the Best Director Oscar.

Correction: Like a good quarterback.

From a production standpoint, Saving Mr. Banks really stands out. This is a period piece that does what I like to see in a period piece, have small touches of the era it’s depicting, while not making it so obvious. There are enough nice little touches that make you feel as if it’s in the period, which is what the film needed to accomplish. The setpieces for the film really do look great and to the period, even the moments at Disney World.

As far as writing goes, this is one of the best written films of the year. Relatively inexperienced scribes Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith give this material justice, by having a perfectly balanced screenplay full of laughs and heart. Like last year’s Lincoln, the two are able to make a subject matter that seems kind of strenuous and boring really light and amusing, with the collaborating scenes between Travers and the writing staff being some of the film’s highlights.

That's like making a movie about Facebook interesting!
That’s like making a movie about Facebook interesting! Wait…

This film has to be in consideration for one of the best ensemble casts of the year. Emma Thompson is the lead here, and is certainly deserving of all the love she is getting from the award circuit. Her performance has a great deal of melancholy, but also a quick wit and balance of emotions. Even with her flaws, it’s easy to follow behind her and root for her all the way.

Even more impressive is that the supporting cast is even better! Paul Giamatti seemed to have a thankless role in the film, but is an absolute scene-stealer in his role has Traver’s friend and cab driver. Every time he was on screen, he really put a smile on my face with his charm and whimsy. Playing the highly touted Sherman Brothers, Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak do a good job for their respective roles, largely benefiting from the comedic opportunities of the script.

Nice to see him do something a bit tamer after this.

Surprisingly, there is still so much more talent in this film’s cast, which is why its one of the deepest of the year. Colin Farrell perhaps gives his best performance yet in a career full of good performances, having an excellent gauge between being this light-hearted guy, but also a drunken man who can never get his act straight. I have yet to even mention Tom Hanks, who as Walt Disney does a great job as always, but in this superior cast, is actually very much overshadowed by his peers, which is something you can’t say about most movies Tom Hanks is in.

Perhaps the quality that I was most unsure about entering the film was its emotion. Whenever you have a studio like Disney behind a film, it seems like the emotional core would be very much sappy. In Saving Mr. Banks, the emotion really hits home, due to the fact that this film is able to go into dark places when it needs to. Even with the film being directed towards family audiences, it goes to very dark, yet real places. The realism taken here makes the emotion really hit home, as it avoids the cliche and sappiness of many Disney films.

Also surprising is the film’s message, which was one of the more deeper ones this year. Saving Mr. Banks is a film about artists, what inspires them, and how they take their happy and sad experiences and infuse them into something for everyone to enjoy. The film even focuses on how art touches people in different ways, as the lead’s acceptance towards the end of the film was a really touching and smart moment, that was also heartbreaking at the same time.


Being sold as this simple family comedy, Saving Mr. Banks is one of the most genuine and heartwarming films of the year, that is deserving of much praise. This film will certainly be near, if not in my top ten list by the end of the year; it’s a truly special movie. Check it out over the holidays!


Drinking Game

Take a Drink: for each time a character drinks

Take a Drink: whenever a new character actor pops up.

Do a Shot: when you catch yourself singing along with the songs.


Last Call: stay after the credits for a cool little moment.

About Matt Conway

I love movies and sports and run on sentences. You can find me at a basketball court, the local theater, or napping on a couch somewhere.

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