This movie awards season has been particularly controversial. Saving Mr. Banks is one of those films that, even with a generic, feel-good premise, has experienced controversy over the perceived accuracy of their characterization of Walt Disney, the late, major Hollywood player, and their portrayal of the historical events that led to the film Mary Poppins. In fairness to them, people involved in the film have been open about the liberties taken and the looseness of their interpretation of events, instead focusing on telling a particular type of story. Because of the beautiful way they achieved telling that story, I can overcome these historical inaccuracies (if they are so) and enjoy the movie as a whole. I feel like others should as well.
There are really two major things that Saving Mr. Banks has going for it. The first is the spot-on, heartwarming performances from its cast – from leads Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson (especially), to smaller characters like Paul Giamatti and Bradley Whitford. While compared to other Oscar-season films their roles may not be as meaty, they did really well with what they had and completely owned their parts.
The second thing it has going for it is that, while the actors embraced and owned their roles, the movie itself embraced and owned the heartwarming, nostalgic factor of the story. Many films would be saved by doing the same instead of trying to overcomplicate or overdramatize their stories. Instead, Mr. Banks is a highly self-aware and confident film – it knows what it wants to be and, thus, is able to do so in a fantastic fashion.
While some of the elements of the flashbacks (a huge part of the story) were clumsily handled, most of Saving Mr. Banks is well-plotted and well-shot. The sounds and imagery also added to the overall feel of the film.
What Saving Mr. Banks lacks in historical accuracy it makes up for in solid scriptwriting and great performances. It also provides interesting insight into the power dynamics in major filmmaking. Of equal importance, it is a movie that will evoke positive memories and emotions from its audience. It deserves to be taken on these terms. And, on these terms, Saving Mr. Banks is triumphant.