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A heartfelt journey into your imagination and childhood.
Marc Forster's historical romance drama Finding Neverland (2004) brings you back to your childhood loving Peter Pan, believing in fairies, and searching for a purpose in life. Forster's direction is very pretty as he tells the life story of J.M. Barrie as he finds his muse and inspiration for writing his Peter Pan play. Gemma Jackson's production design and Trisha Edwards' set decoration recreates old London with a gentle nostalgia and keen detail. Finding Neverland make me teary eyed with how empathetic it is for those grieving, especially children.
Matt Cheese's editing is very professional and sleek for 106 brief minutes that you are never bored during Finding Neverland. David Magee and Allan Knee's writing is sweet as they find the heart and mindset of a conflicted writer disillusioned with his plays. Magee and Knee also write realistic children that have that playful wonder of a child's perspective. In all, Forster did a great job making Finding Forster genuine, informative, and entertaining.
Roberto Schaefer's cinematography is gorgeous with ethereal lighting and serene wide shots around London and the Neverland set. Jan A.P. Kaczmarek's score is beautiful with a heavenly aura that blankets Finding Neverland with a graceful warmth. Alexandra Bryne's costumes are lovely with pretty sundresses for Radha Mitchell and Kate Winslet with striking suits for Johnny Depp.
Johnny Depp is sympathetic and likable as famed Scottish author and playwright Sir James Matthew Barrie. His Scottish accent is great and fun to hear, but it is Depp's tender portrayal of a man worn out by his loveless marriage and poorly received plays, who learns to love again when he meets a poor widow and her remarkable 4 children. He has a nice rapport with a fierce and affectionate Freddie Highmore. Kate Winslet is excellent and devastating as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies with a sweet chemistry with Johnny Depp. Winslet's eyes say everything she feels. They all carry and elevate this film to greatness.
Radha Mitchell is gorgeous and intriguing as Depp's forlorn wife Mary Ansell Barrie fed up with J.M. Barrie going around with a widow alone. Julie Christie has a severe presence and intense gravitas as Kate Winslet's mother Mrs. Emma du Maurier. Dustin Hoffman has a funny little role as Charles Frohman who financed Barrie's plays. Kate Maberly is a nice Wendy, but Kelly Macdonald's brave and adventurous Peter Pan is amazingly captivating to watch. It was fun to see Mackenzie Crook and Angus Barnett outside of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise too.
In conclusion, Finding Neverland is a beautiful film for families to enjoy as parents will find a fondness for this story for sure.
It was odd, slow moving and the performances were only ok.
It's beeen a while since a movie has made me feel such a Broad spectrum of emotions
This movie feels like someone had a bunch of great ideas, but they never transferred over to the big screen properly.
heartfelt, warmth and deeply beautiful drama. Wow!
When I watch a biopic, I generally find it more engaging if they focus in on a specific time period or event in that person’s life, which is what they attempt with Finding Neverland. This film looks at the time in J.M. Barrie’s career that he was struggling for a hit, and the children he met who led him to create the character of Peter Pan. There’s a high level of charm in the film, and I love all the acting performances. The kids are delightful, and Johnny Depp is appropriately restrained. I only wish Kate Winslet was a more active participant in the story, but for plot reasons she spends a great deal of time on the periphery of the action. It’s one of those movies that pulls on the heartstrings and could elicit a lot of tears for some people. I was able to hold back the waterworks, because I could predict long before it came where the movie was headed, which lessened the emotional blow. The other thing that lessened my emotional reaction is that it gets a bit aggressively manipulative in drawing out the tears. It falls into the realm of “schmaltz” more than once. My other problem with Finding Neverland is that they didn’t do enough to draw correlation between Barrie’s playful bond with the Davies kids, and the story of Peter Pan. I expected to see true inspiration and the blatant connecting threads between the two. I also kind of wanted to see them play more with the magical realism that we see in only one scene. I think it could have been fun to see them swept away in a real-world adventure when they were pretending, so we could see the magic he was seeking to create in the minds of his audiences. I was able to forgive a lot of these plot issues, because they were the fault of my own false expectations, and because I chose to buy into the story being told. Finding Neverland bought so much good will from me, based solely on the tone of the film and the delightful actors, that I found myself ignoring some complaints and going along for the ride. I can’t say that the movie quite took my heart on a flight to Neverland, but at least I managed to enjoy aspects of it, while recognizing that the movie is somewhat flawed.
This was a good movie, but sometimes I feel biopics try too hard to push the rhetoric that fiction is just a "remix" of the reality of the authors life. There's always going to be some truth to that, but be careful not to take it too far. We have imagination for a reason.
This movie takes you to a whole new place...
Watching Johnny Depp on screen is difficult for me as I have grown up seeing him as an abusive husband and an otherwise mentally troubled human being who doesn't have the charm and sex appeal that he would have had to audiences slightly older than I am. He seems an odd fit then to play a delightfully childlike patriarchal figure to four young boys who invents an enchanting story that has inspired children for decades. I have to say that the film never quite grabbed me as it all seemed far too twee and schmaltzy to be truly affecting and I never felt that I really knew these characters or understood their bonds. One of the things about the film that shocked me was it earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture which seemed very odd when considering how milquetoast it is in a year that produced Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and the comedy classic Mean Girls (2004).
Lonely playwright J.M. Barrie, Johnny Depp, is excited by the presence of the four young Davies brothers in his life as they inspire him to explore his own imagination and write new plays after having one of his plays fail. His increasing closeness to the boys and their widowed mother Sylvia Llewellyn Davies, Kate Winslet, alarms his neglected social climber wife Mary, Radha Mitchell, and arouses the suspicions of Edwardian society. Barrie's relationship with Davies is further complicated by her connection to her possessive mother Mrs. Emma Du Maurier, Julie Christie, and her life threatening illness. Barrie successfully stages the Peter Pan play, inspired by the boys, and Davies receives a proper send off as Barrie promises to take care of the boys.
Surprisingly the best part of the film was the delightful performance of Winslet who I usually am not partial to. She brings real warmth and a sense of responsibility to the role of free spirited young matriarch and it is a shame that we do not spend more time with her as she is simply enchanting. Comparatively Depp is bland and not engaging in the lead role as you never see what would draw such spirited young men to him and why you would want to center an entire film around a figure so dull. His accent is fine if a tad hammy, he simply can't compare to Maggie Smith in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969), while his body language doesn't suggest someone comfortable with pretending to be different characters, strange for an actor. The supporting cast are all perfectly fine as Christie gets the opportunity to chew the scenery as an overbearing mother but it's sad to see Dustin Hoffman receive so little to work with.
Unfortunately what are meant to be the most uplifting and inspiring moments in the film, when we see Barrie and the Davies brothers pretending to be swashbucklers and Native Americans, are irksome and tiring. All of these scenes take place in elaborate sets as we cut between reality and the imaginations of these men with the fears and desires of the young boys being represented by crashing waves or elaborate face paintings. I wanted to feel the spark of inspiration that supposedly came from these experiences or at least the joy that the boys derived from these moments but they seemed so artificial and lifeless that I just couldn't believe in the magic of these scenes. So many biopics about events that inspired an artists greatest work, of which there are many, struggle to portray the eureka moments without seeming hokey or cheesy and this film falls firmly in that category.
The whole film really doesn't stand out to so many others of it's kind as it's period detail isn't very impressive, the performances aren't incredible and the direction is steady but never remarkable. This is sad when considering all of the talented assembled as it should be more fun to see Christie and Winslet play mother and daughter but somehow the energy is sapped out of the film and it ends up being stunningly average. Certainly not a bad film per se but one that is less than the sum of it's parts and not one of the best of 2004.
Awaken the child in you!