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.