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I’m sure I’m not the only one who jumped down her staircase, umbrella in hand, in an attempt to be Mary Poppins.  At age four, when I found this did not give me the lift required, I intended to jump from the roof.  Luckily my mother was very suspicious of my need for the ladder (I also wanted pet penguins I could dance with).  That movie was absolute magic for me.

I very much enjoyed watching how that movie came to be (and in some cases nearly didn’t) and even more so, how Mary Poppins herself came to be.  The film is as much a biographical sketch of P. L. Travers’ childhood as it is about Disney.  Seeing the world of Edwardian-era Australia through a 6-year-old’s eyes, we get a glimpse into the lack of stability, need for imagination and harsh realities in Mrs. Travers’ early life.

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The parents, played by Ruth Wilson and Colin Farrell, are convincingly fragile and realistic.  Each is slowly crumbling under the weight of their responsibilities, as they realize their expectations are in no way possible.

Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks are predictably great.  It seems that P. L. Travers was actually more difficult to deal with than depicted — which makes sense when you hear the short recording during the closing credits.  It is Travers, in her own voice, arguing about the type of house facade for 17 Cherry Tree Lane.

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I really liked watching the chemistry between B.J. Novak, Jason Schwartzman and Bradley Whitford.  They play the Sherman Brothers, responsible for the music, and Don DaGradi, the scriptwriter.  The three of them are constantly on edge yet have to find a way to get the movie made.  While Travers’ delivers funny lines, they are really meant to sting.  This trio is more subtle with their barbs.

There is undoubtedly a generous sprinkling of Disney schmaltz in Saving Mr. Banks.  It’s Disney, after all.  But it works.  It’s a wonderful movie — just like Mary Poppins — even if some of the details are edited for clarity.  {For more on the “real” story of Disney and Travers here.}  The film is well-made, well-acted and has an incredible story.  That’s all one can ask of a movie.  It reminds us all that imagination is powerful stuff and, really, is necessary to life.

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Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke at the premiere of Saving Mr. Banks

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