Archive for the ‘Finding Neverland’ Category

203 – Finding Neverland

May 13, 2005

Finding Neverland is the story of how struggling playwright J. M. Barrie (Johnny Depp) created Peter Pan, inspired by an equally struggling widow (Kate Winslet) and her four rambunctious boys. Exquisitely detailed, with sumptuous and elaborate set pieces, Marc Forster’s filming of the Allan Knee play is artful without being arty.

Johnny Depp is perfectly cast as Barrie, although there’s the usual caveat that Johnny Depp is perfectly cast in almost anything. He might well be the best actor working today, especially since he refuses to let himself become typecast. Hard to believe now that he used to be on that old Fox TV show, isn’t it? Depp is dead-on earnest as the wise, soulful Barrie, who becomes a sort-of surrogate father to the four Davies boys, whose father has since passed away (although in real life he hadn’t yet died when Barrie met the family).

Although the movie is about the creation of Peter Pan, at its heart are smaller dovetailing storythreads about relationships, particularly those between Barrie and his wife, Mary (Radha Mitchell), Barrie and Sylvia Davies (Winslet), and Barrie and the youngest Davies boy, Peter (Freddie Highmore). Depp’s mastery of expression and pathos are on display here, as he turns in an utterly commanding, pitch-perfect performance; his Oscar nomination for this role was well deserved indeed.

Depp is supported by an excellent cast that looks like it’s been performing the roles for years. In particular, Winslet and Mitchell were magnificent, as was the venerable Julie Christie, who plays Sylvia’s mother Mrs. Emma du Maurier. Dustin Hoffman turns in decent work as Charles Frohman, the proprietor of the playhouse in which Barrie’s plays were performed (in other words, his patron). As Depp is now, Hoffman was long known for being able to disappear into a role – his roles in the 1970s alone are mighty eclectic indeed.

This is a sheer beauty to behold, a movie that should certainly stand the test of time to be regarded in a few decades as a true classic. Your jaw will drop at some of the set pieces on display – check out the pirate ship! – and you’ll marvel at the jaunty forays into the imagination of the playwright who never grew up. Finding Neverland will have even the most jaded and heartless melting and shimmering with pure, unadulterated joy.

Finding Neverland: ****