Movie Response: Saving Mr Banks

December 28, 2013


If I were to sit down and take inventory of my all-time-favorite moves, the classic “Mary Poppins” would make its way into the top ten. I have loved that movie since I was a kid. I love Dick Van Dyke and the way he presents himself on screen. I love Julie Andrews’ voice and the way she can be funny with a stern look on her face. I try to make room for this film at least once a year. It’s one of those movies where you learn something new about the characters every time you watch it.

When I watched it earlier this year I remember being a little caught off guard by the ending. Like many of these films from that era it is quite long at two hours and nineteen minutes. I confess that many times I am considerably distracted by the time I reach the last bit of the movie. Often I don’t even finish the last half hour as the evening has gotten away from me.

If you recall, the end of “Mary Poppins” gets a little dark. Jane and Michael just finished causing a “run” on the bank where Mr. Banks is employed, and he is on his way to face the bank board and his impending dismissal. It’s at this low point in the film where Mr. Banks finally lets the joy and wonderment that Mary Poppins has brought into the home overtake him. He rushes home, repairs a broken kite, and takes Jane and Michael out to play. Earlier this year this scene finally made sense to me. This movie has never been about the kids, it’s about their dad. It has always been about their dad. I have been watching this movie for forty years and I finally got it!

Having finally “got it” this last spring, I was ecstatic when I saw the trailer for “Saving Mr. Banks.” It quickly became my must-see movie for this year, and last night we were able to attend a showing. I was really excited to discover who Mr. Banks was, and why he needed saving. I was not prepared for how deeply emotional this film would be. The trailers don’t even come close to revealing what this film is about. The film spent as much time in Ms. Travers childhood as it did with her and Walt in 1966. We discover the deep and painful inspiration that drove her to write the “Mary Poppins” series.

I don’t want to spoil everything about this film for you, but I wouldn’t even be writing this review if “Saving Mr. Banks” didn’t relate directly to the overall theme of my writing. Walt Disney and P.L. Travers share something in common with each other; they both had deeply troubled fathers. Through the film “Mary Poppins” both P.L. Travers and Walt Disney wanted to honor the kind of fathers they knew their dads wanted to be, but for various reasons were unable to become. They did something that is in really short supply these days. They honored men who did not always act in very honorable ways.

I have a great dad. He would be the first to tell you he wasn’t perfect. Before I had kids of my own I was more critical of him than I should have been. It’s easier to criticize someone when you have no idea what it’s like to live their life. I’m not critical of him anymore. It’s a hard job, and no matter how hard a man tries he will fall short. I have made a pile of my own mistakes. I’ve yelled, I’ve slammed doors in frustration, I’ve thrown my arms up in disgust, and I’ve said the wrong things at the wrong time.

My hope is that when my daughters get older they will choose to focus on what I did right, and show me grace in the areas where I didn’t do such a great job. I don’t expect them to write books or make movies about me. I’ll just be happy if they still want to spend time with an old man who did the best he could for the girls he loved.

James Dibben


6 responses to Movie Response: Saving Mr Banks

  1. You are the very best dad I know and because I know the stories behind the list you just gave, I can say few would’ve handled things better. You work so hard at being a good dad, our girls are very blessed.

    This movie was deeply emotional and extremely painful. However, I highly recommend everyone see it and I would watch it again myself. I still feel deeply moved the day after and will continue to work through the feelings. There is no other relationship that affects us more than the relationship we have with our fathers.

    In this season of life, God has taught me a lot about his love and forgiveness. It is supernatural and yet, he can teach us what his love looks and acts like and empower us to live it out toward others. There is no better place to start than with our dads, as time goes by all too quickly.

  2. Great post. I too have always enjoyed Mary Poppins. It is one of those musicals that has so much going for it. Great acting, wonderfully funny bits, hum-worthy songs. It is whimsical and sweet but also dark, as you mention, which keeps it from being an overly sentimental film and which is part of what I believe has kept it so popular all these years.

    This is a film I hope we see before it leaves theaters. I’m a big fan of both Hanks and Thompson anyway and their pairing in any film would make me sit up and take notice. But given the themes of this one and how it ties into a favorite musical, it is a must see for me.

    • It’s worth seeing in the theater just for the fact you are forced to watch the entire thing without interruption. This movie needs to be seen start to finish to get the full affect.

      Emma Thompson was absolutely fantastic. I hope she gets noticed at Oscar time.

      • True, of course that is pretty easy nowadays with just Mary and me at home. We’re not big on pausing movies and walking away from them, except to use the toilet or refresh drinks/snacks.

        • Elaina and I are that way when we watch Doctor Who. We managed to watch 6 episodes last week. It was a blast! I’m really starting to get into the show.

          • Awesome! We have season 6 on DVD when you get to that point if you would rather watch it that way then streaming.

            I’m tempted now, given the long wait until new episodes, to go back and start with the Tennant episodes and watch them all again.