SAVING MR BANKS is a difficult movie to peg, and your enjoyment of it will likely depend on A ) How much affection you have for the MARY POPPINS film, and B ) How much you mind dramatized and loose interpretations of historical events.
Taken at face value, the film is a quite charming, though it edges on schmaltzy. Looking past that, I constantly wondered what Mrs. Travers would think of the Disneyfication of her life. The acting is phenomenal, Emma Thompson especially. Looking past that, I wondered how accurate the emotional journey that her character takes is. Apparently she panned the film of MARY POPPINS after its release, so I’m guessing “not very”.
Beside these issues of historical accuracy, the most glaring issue with the film is that it’s about an artistic collaboration that results in a film classic, but we get no before and after. The film infers that Travers has an effect on the way Disney’s MARY POPPINS ends, but it never gives a hint of what the ending was previously. All of Travers other suggestions seem largely ignored, as the only examples they give of things she dislikes actually made it into the final film. So while collaboration is the theme, it’s never demonstrated.
The film’s greatest strength was what it reminds us of: that the purpose of story is to give us hope, to refocus our dreary lives and remember what’s really important. It’s a sweet sentiment, but MARY POPPINS did it better, with a spoonful of sugar and less historical baggage.