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Finding Neverland (2004)

  Directed by: Marc Forster
Written by: Allan Knee, David Magee
Starring: Julie Christie, Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore, Dustin Hoffman, Radha Mitchell, Kate Winslet
Links: Finding Neverland on the IMDb, Official site, Buy the Soundtrack, Buy on DVD
Genre: Drama

This movie gets: 8.00 (3 ratings)
nofreelist.com Ranking: Ranked equal 53rd of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

Finding Neverland (2004) is also mentioned in mino's review of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) and pearly's review of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005).

"Heeeeeere's Johnny (again!)" - a review by mino

Finding Neverland has Johnny Depp in it. I'm not sure if that's all you need to know to know if it's a good movie or not, but let's face it, it's pretty bloody close to it. Some movie-going colleagues and I (including good ol' pearly) were recently discussing actors who have never made a bad movie — or, at least, have gone as close as possible to doing so. As far as I'm concerned, Depp's at the very top of the list. He's made very very few stinkers, given the size of his career (caveat: I haven't seen Blow (2001) or Secret Window (2004), which I've heard bad things about) but even when he has been in a bit of a suspicious-smelling flick, he's always the highlight. Frankly, the guy's a genius, and I very much doubt there's any better actor alive, certainly in his age group.

Honestly, when you see a Johnny Depp movie, it takes a bit of the fun out of movie reviewing. You don't have to decide whether to give a movie a one out of ten, or a three, or a nine: you pretty much know that you're going to end up giving at least a seven or an eight on the strength of JD's performance alone, with only the very rare exception. And Finding Neverland is certainly not one of those.

I'm not sure how historically accurate the film is, but it's the story of J. M. Barrie, author of the children's story Peter Pan, and his relationship with the play's inspiration, the Llewelyn Davies family — a widow (Kate Winslet) and her four young boys, along with their domineering grandmother (Julie Christie). Barrie befriends the boys in the park and soon becomes a part of their family, much to the disgust of their grandmother — as well as, eventually, Barrie's long-suffering wife, who is actually a surprisingly minor character but is played to perfection by Aussie Radha Mitchell.

The star of this movie — which, admittedly, has a very impressive cast — is undoubtedly Depp though. Depp puts on a corker of a Scottish accent and has a great old time portraying Barrie, somehow capturing his genius, his whimsy, his rather unconventional outlook on life, as well as his struggles with some of the finer points of social relationships and his battles with a series of unsuccessful scripts he's written. Depp absolutely lights up the screen and, while I think the movie is far from without flaws — I think Christie's character, in particular, comes across as almost too stuffy and proper, making her almost unbelievable, and Freddie Highmore's Peter is too sickly-sweet and oh-so-cute-wook-at-his-widdle-face — the strong cast do a great job of smoothing out any bumps. It's a moving story, and one which makes you think, even if the moral of the story is laid on a little heavy-handedly. Fundamentally, it's a great story, well-told and well-acted. And starring Johnny Depp. You can't really ask for much more than that.

Oh, and Mackenzie Crook is hilarious as a stagehand/doorman. He doesn't say or do anything, but damn he's funny-lookin'.

mino gives this movie 8 out of 10.
Review created on Thu 31 Mar 2005

"A nice escape" - a review by pearly

Finding Neverland is (loosely) based on the life of Peter Pan author J. M. Barrie. Barrie is played by the always-wonderful Johnny Depp. The story told in the film begins with Barrie living a not-so-perfect life, having a strained marriage with Mary (Radha Mitchell). Whilst taking his dog for a walk at the park, he bumps into the Llewelyn Davies family, which includes four young boys, and the recently widowed Sylvia (Kate Winslet).

What develops is a friendship between Barrie and the family, as Barrie, whose recent plays have also been struggling at the theatre, finds a new outlet for his creativity in the creation of alternate worlds for the young boys. He forms a particular bond with Peter (Freddie Highmore); a bond which leads to him naming his most famous character after the boy.

I wasn't too familiar with Barrie's life before seeing the film, and I have since learned that some of the facts of the thing have been messed up, presumably to create a more interesting tale. For example, when Barrie met the Llewelyn Davies family, the father had not actually yet passed away, and there were actually five children in the family. This kind of detail didn't bother me too much, but I guess it was trying to make the story a bit more palatable to the audience, and there could perhaps have been benefit in more faithfully telling the story (if Barrie and Sylvia really were beginning to become romantically linked, as was at the very least hinted at in the film, then the presence of a living husband for Sylvia changes the tone of things somewhat).

Still, as a film taken as three quarters enjoyment and one quarter historic learning, Finding Neverland hits its mark. To pair Depp and Winslet in leading roles could only (you would hope) lead to genius, and the two are magic together on screen. Even on the accent front, a usual irritant for me, Depp managed to excel - his Scottish accent was very believable, and didn't pull me out of the world once.

The other thing I had been looking forward to when seeing this film, was getting to check out Highmore - the actor who will play Charlie in the Tim Burton version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). I have extraordinarily high hopes for that film, so seeing whether Highmore could actually act (as well as how he stacked up working with Depp, who is Wonka in the same film) was fantastic - and he can. In one scene in particular, he stole the show, and did it with style.

Rounding out the fabulous cast is Dustin Hoffman, who plays Charles Frohman, Barrie's theatre financier. His character (along with Julie Christie, who played Sylvia's mother, and, to a lesser extent, Mitchell's) provides the perfect gauge to the surrounding world - the stuffiness of society and the constant watchful eye that was placed on high society types at that time. Upon reflection of this film, you realise how tightly put together it is, with each character being there for a reason.

In the closing scenes of the film, which are meant to be beautiful and reflective, an elderly lady sitting in the seat behind me, said to her friend "I can't stand this, it's sentimental garbage!". It kinda ruined the end of the film for me, what with me having a quiet chuckle to myself and all, but I didn't agree with her analysis. Finding Neverland is a bit soppy, but it's also well-told, well-acted, and enjoyable. Escape into its world, just as Barrie intended stuffy patrons to do when his play of Peter Pan opened, and you'll enjoy your stay.

pearly gives this movie 8 out of 10.
Review created on Thu 3 Feb 2005

"A very nice place to visit" - a review by citizenjoe

Finding Neverland is a chick-flick that guys with a heart will surely love. In fact, every movie with Johnny Depp could be described this way.

This is the story of J. M. Barrie's search for the inspiration behind Peter Pan. To Barrie (Johnny Depp), living at the start of the 20th Century and married, this inspiration comes in the form of a recently widowed Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet) and her four young boys.

Before seeing it, I was made to sit through an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show where Depp, Winslett and the young Freddie Highmore (who plays Peter Llewelyn Davies, after whom Peter Pan was named), were all introduced to a studio audience of women who screamed louder than a football crowd.

Depp was described as the sexiest man on earth. He looked suitably embarrassed by the accolade as any man would be. But when you are married to Vanessa Paradis, who cares?

One thing Depp does is bring life to a part that very few other actors are able to. He also has the knack of being able to select interesting films that have a story worth watching.

Finding Neverland is one such film. Well-told story, with excellent performances from the leads plus Dustin Hoffman, Julie Christie and Australian Radha Mitchell.

Its theme is about being able to dream and use the imagination to create different worlds. What is amazing as far as J. M. Barrie is concerned is that this was done at a time when there was little room for thinking outside conventional mores. Peter Pan was originally written for adults with children in mind.

Yet, the power of Peter Pan is that it appeals to the child in all of us. The child and the imagination that we put into hibernation far too early.

In the end, Finding Neverland is a film about what can happen when you have an imagination that refuses to grow up. It's a place everyone should visit at least once in their lives.

citizenjoe gives this movie 8 out of 10.
Review created on Tue 4 Jan 2005

Movie review statistics

Number of reviews: 3
Average rating: 8.00
Lowest rating: 8 (by mino, pearly, citizenjoe)
Highest rating: 8 (by mino, pearly, citizenjoe)
 
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Reader comments

  1. Oh man, I'm so boring. I can't believe I titled my review so similarly to Joe's review. Oh well, I stink.

    A comment from nofreelist's own pearly on Thu 03 Feb 2005 14:44 #

  2. thankyou mino for ending the dreadful run of reviews by tim!!!! god bless your merry soul!!!

    Rating given: 9

    A comment from hello hello on Thu 31 Mar 2005 23:03 #

  3. Johnny depp is the best actor ever

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from melissa on Wed 31 Aug 2005 10:54 #

  4. yeah he is the best actor

    Rating given: 10

    A comment from amy on Wed 31 Aug 2005 10:56 #

Those who have commented give this movie: 9.67 (3 ratings)

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