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Finding Neverland
2004 - PG - 106 Mins.
Director: Marc Forster
Producer: Nellie Bellflower
Written By: Allan Knee, David Magee
Starring: Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, Dustin Hoffman, Radha Mitchell
Review by: Harrison Cheung
Official Site:

arrrgh, matey's, want to be in the sequel to Pirates of the Caribbean with me?
‘Finding Neverland’ is a touching drama about real life playwright, J.M. Barrie, and his creative journey to write his classic play, ‘Peter Pan.’ Set in 1904 London, England, Barrie, played by Johnny Depp with a light Scottish brogue, befriends a widow, Sylvia (Kate Winslet), and her four sons, Jack, George, Michael… and Peter. Barrie himself is unhappily married with no children of his own, so he takes great joy in playing cowboys, Indians and pirates with the boys in the lush green London parks or out in his country cottage. As he grows to love Sylvia and her family, he becomes inspired to write his play.

Scholars have written plenty about “Peter Pan” and the “Neverland” syndrome – a man who refuses to grow up. With the latest Michael Jackson trial over, you might look at Neverland in a different light too. But ‘Finding Neverland,’ which is based on a play about the real life of Barrie, strips away a century of psychological interpretation to reveal a simple, bittersweet story about love, friendship and childhood lost. The film examines the social mores of the time – an unseemly relationship between a famous married playwright with an impoverished widow. And when one of Barrie’s friends warns him that there’s even gossip about his relationship with the boys, well, Barrie gets all Michael Jackson on him, defending his platonic affections.

Director Marc Forster who previously gave us the acclaimed ‘Monster’s Ball,’ has crafted a film that is a delicate balancing act – one part magical – as the Peter Pan play begins to build – and one part Merchant Ivory-esque costume drama that is in itself fascinating as we see the snobbery and manners which ruled social life in England. There are some whimsical scenes where we get to see what Barrie sees as he takes in events in his life to inspire him for scenes in his play. Not only is this film a memorable drama, but it’s also an interesting look at the creative process of a writer. ‘Finding Neverland’ is a far better film that the similar ‘Topsy Turvy’ which was about Barrie’s contemporaries, Gilbert and Sullivan and their inspiration. But we can thank the inspired casting for this film’s poise.

With films like ‘Edward Scissorhands,’ ‘Benny and June’ and the upcoming ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,’ Johnny Depp excels at playing characters who have an inner child marching to the beat of a different drummer. Even in proper pre-WWI London society, Depp’s Barrie is always amused at his surroundings. And when he’s with Sylvia’s boys, it’s clear he loves them dearly and tries to use his own considerable imagination and sense of wonderment to give them hope and happiness. The rest of the cast is also equally good. Kate Winslet’s Sylvia is proud and yet touched by Barrie’s attention. Radha Mitchell plays Barrie’s suffering wife with just the right amount of reproach. There’s also Dustin Hoffman cameoing as Barrie’s producer – Hoffman, of course, played Captain Hook in Spielberg’s version of ‘Peter Pan.’ And Julie Christie practically steals the film as Sylvia’s mother with the type of crusty annoyance that was once the proprietary domain of Judi Dench.

The DVD release adds a number of deleted scenes, the commentary, as well as some very funny outtakes. Making a movie with Johnny Depp looked like fun for the entire cast and crew!

This is not really a children’s film in spite of the subject matter. Instead, it’s a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the creation of a classic play that continues to inspire to this day. That real people and real events inspired the play make it all the more satisfying to enjoy 'Peter Pan' on an entirely different level.
Movie Guru Rating
An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater. An excellent film.  Among the best in its Genre.  Worth seeing in the Theater.
  4 out of 5 stars

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