Rated PG for mild thematic elements and brief language.
Directed By: Marc Forster
Written By: David Magee
Staring: Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, Radha Mitchell, Dustin Hoffman, Freddie Highmore, Mackensie Crook, and Kelly Macdonald
Porthos dreams of being a bear, and you want to shatter those dreams by saying he’s *just* a dog? What a horrible candle-snuffing word. That’s like saying, “He can’t climb that mountain, he’s just a man”, or “That’s not a diamond, it’s just a rock.” Just. -J.M. Barrie
I was disappointed in Finding Neverland. Kate Winslet and Johnny Depp are two of my favorite actors and while they did a stupendous job in this film, the rest fell short as there seemed to be different levels that the story, the characters and even the actors had the ability to reach. The relationships that developed between the family and Barrie was remarkable, and his legitimately earnest nature was adoring. The story, based on the book written by Barrie has elements of greatness but sadly it’s slow pacing, and constant focus and attention on the tenderness of the characters and their relationships the structure often became a distraction to any real plot or development.
Finding Neverland is based on the novel J.M. Barrie, the author and creator of the beloved tale Peter Pan, write. It takes a pocket of his life where we have the insight into his inspirations for the story from Peter Pan, but also the depths of the friendships of the family he became friends with and helped him create Peter Pan. The unraveling of the story and what was taken from his friends and what was taken from his own childhood imagination, was how the story unveiled itself.
Kate Winslet looked like an angel, absolutely spellbinding. Her morose depression still grieving the loss of her husband was present, but vitality of her exterior, and her enthusiasm for her children made her a compelling paradox. It was no wonder she was so confused by her attraction to Barrie, and his taking an interest in the family somehow melded the paradox into something different. The fatality of what happens next is crushing on so many levels, but the lightheartedness and hopefulness of the film never loses it’s sense of light. Maybe that’s what Neverland is all about, finding that light, that safe place inside yourself, the freedom of your own mind. The sacrifices Depp , as Barrie, makes for what is partly his art, his own love and affection for the family doesn’t always make clear sense, and though his relationship with Winslet is quite appropriate others want to see otherwise.
Great moments including Dustin Hoffman’s inability to understand how “Peter Pan’ is going to make sense on stage offers a few chuckles. When he is directly reading lines or talking about the ridiculous nature of a character like Captain Hook, the irony of the situation is amusing, considering Hoffman actually played Captain Hook in the film Hook. Watching how Barrie was inspired and how real life reflected his fantasy was a lovely display life imitating art. Those magical moments are divine, but to get to them can be a bit repetitive. The story really moves slow, and it’s easy to get distracted.
Finding Neverland was not a masterpiece, but it very eloquently displayed the life and inspiration of J.M. Barrie’s most memorable piece of work. The performances of Depp and Winslet were the most compelling part of the story, and frankly may have been too good for the roles. The rest of the movie didn’t have the quality either of their performances conveyed. It wasan enjoyable film but not as remarkable as critics and the previews boasted. Good movie, but nothing spectacular.