Saving Mr. Banks


Saving Mr. Banks (2013) is a comedy-drama, directed by John Lee Hancock, about writer P.L. Travers, author of the Mary Poppins novels. The film focuses on the 2-week long period where Walt Disney (Tom Hanks), and his production crew, persuade Travers (Emma Thompson) to sign over the screen rights to her novels. The film parallels Travers’ time in Los Angeles with flashbacks of her childhood, growing up with her imaginative yet alcoholic father. The various flashbacks unravel the mystery of how the young and free-spirited Helen Goff/Ginty (Annie Rose Buckley) transformed into the cold and rigid P.L. Travers.

Emma Thompson excellently portrays the stern and unyielding Mrs. Travers. Travers is a character burdened by decades of guilt and resentment, choosing to express herself through concise diction, appropriate gestures and dress, and through her books. Thompson delivers every line masterfully, strikingly similar to the recording played during the film’s credits of an actual session with P.L. Travers and the Disney production crew. Thompson’s stringent performance throughout the majority of the film makes those few moments where Travers lets down her guard that more moving. Her soft moments truly contrasted from her many hard moments. Travers an austere character, but the film’s care with her childhood story arc allows her to be a sympathetic character, despite her harshness. The audience wants to find out what has made her so firm and wants her to find peace.

The cast is delightful. Disney’s production crew is a bubbly and optimistic group of people — who really have to their optimism put to the ultimate test. Bradley WhitfordJason SchwartzmanBJ Novak, and Melanie Paxson give spirited performances. Their characters in general are happy Disney employees who have to go the extra mile to appease the difficult Mrs. Travers.

The film is named for Mr. Banks, the father character in Travers’ novels. As far as the production crew knows, Mary Poppins comes to care for and save the children, but the flashbacks into Travers’ childhood prove that there is a greater purpose for her presence. Mary Poppins was inspired by Ginty’s Aunt Ellie (Rachel Griffiths), who came at the lowest point in her childhood to fix “everything”. She succeeds in almost everything, but she was not able to save Ginty’s sick father (Colin Farrell). Aunt Ellie’s failure stays with Ginty as she grows up. Mary Poppins comes to save the children’s father, illustrated in touching scene in the film where the song “Let’s Go Fly A Kite” is born.

This delightful and moving film defies multiple expectations, the most important of which is Travers’ transformation. The film is not about forgiving herself. She does not need to save herself. The film is about forgiving her father, forgiving her aunt, forgiving Mary Poppins for not saving her father.

Epic


Epic (2013) is an animated film directed by Chris Wedge. The film focuses on the ongoing battle of good vs. evil among a race of tiny beings in a forest. On the good side are Leafmen, sworn to protect Queen Tara (Beyoncé Knowles), a Mother Nature figure who breathes life into the forest. On the evil side is Mandrake (Christoph Waltz), a Boggan who can bring rot and death to any living creature.

While predictable and straight-forward, the story thrives when fleshing out characters’ backstories. The star of the story, M.K. (Amanda Seyfried) and her father (Jason Sudeikis) are dealing with the recent passing of her mother/his ex-wife. Never blatantly elaborated on, this unfolding mystery adds another layer of interest in what could have been a lackluster father-daughter dynamic. Similarly, Queen Tara and Ronin (Colin Farrell) have history — an unspoken history. Another enigmatic backstory deals with Nod’s (Josh Hutcherson) father, a comrade of Ronin who passed a while ago, making Nod hesitant to follow in his footsteps. All of these backstories make the story much more interesting.

The film dazzles visually. Epic takes the audience to a spectacular world of colorful flowers, hummingbird war-horses, and stunning tree-palaces. Similar to the resplendent world of AvatarEpic makes leaps and bounds with its incredible graphics. Absolutely everything on screen is remarkable, from the flower-people’s floral headdresses to the black depths of the Boggans’ lair. The film rightfully earns its namesake from its epic world-building.

Another success of the film is Danny Elfman’s beautiful score. This soundtrack creates tonal landscapes that match perfectly with the visuals on the screen. The score harks back to soundtracks like Harry Gregson-Williams’ for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which create soundscapes that beautifully parallel their respective films.

Epic is a lovely film with an all-star cast. While not exactly memorable, the characters’ backstories and relationships are what make the story affective. Accompanied by breathtaking visuals and a beautiful score, this film succeeds as a darling summer film, for both kids and adults.