Saving Mr. Banks has a fundamental structural flaw that keeps it from being more than half of a good movie.
The film tells the story of one P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson, and you owe it to yourself to queue up Wit right away), author of the ‘Mary Poppins’ book series. Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) flies her to California to convince her to sell him the film rights, but she’s having none of it.
This is a recipe for a good movie. Thompson and Hanks (and Paul Giamatti, in a small supporting role) rank among the best actors of their generation; I love Mary Poppins and I’m interested in the “making of;” and "unstoppable force meets immovable object” is a great recipe for drama.
There’s a problem, however. The film tells a parallel story, that of young Ginty (Miss Travers), her father (Colin Farrell, and you really, really should see the Fright Night remake), and their family’s attempt to make it in the banking business somewhere in the Australian outback. Not only did not I not particularly care about Ginty and her dad, but I felt the time spent showing us Ms. Travers’s deep backstory killed the momentum of the Thompson/Hanks conflict. What the film could have told us through a few lines of dialogue, a photo on a mantelpiece, and Thompson’s extraordinary talent, it instead delivers through a plodding, predictable, depressing series of flashbacks.
An hour-long Saving Mr. Banks, with most of the Ginty material excised, would make for a film I’d happily recommend. As it stands, however, I suggest you see this one with your thumb on the fast forward button.