innocent_man: (drama)
[personal profile] innocent_man
Finding Neverland is a dramedy starring Kate Winslet, Johnny Depp, Freddy Highmore, Rhada Mitchell and Dustin Hoffman. It's a limited biopic of J. M. Barrie, the playwright who wrote Peter Pan.

Barrie (Depp) is a playwright who's kind of lost his edge. His producer, Charles Frohman (Hoffman) has just taken a bath producing a play that kind of flopped, but is confident that Barrie will get his mojo back (just, y'know, do it soon). At the park one day, Barrie meets and befriends a young widow (Winslet) and her five boys. He winds up playing pretend with them, and while there might be attraction between him and Sylvia, that's really secondary to the fun he has with the kids.

He goes home to his wife (Mitchell), who notes that Sylvia's mother, Emma du Maurier (Julie Christie) is an important woman. She invites the family over, but Emma, as it turns out, doesn't approve of Sylvia doing anything but getting remarried, and so that kind of chills things. But Barrie continues to hang out with the family, including trying to get young Peter (Highmore) to let out some of the grief and anger he's feeling over his father's death. Barrie begins to write Peter Pan, using the family as inspiration.

Along the way, though, Sylvia takes ill with Dramatic Coughing at Bad Times (actually it was cancer IRL, but that's never stated in the movie), and doesn't get to the see the play in the theater (which, as we all know, was very well-received). A poignant moment: After the play, Peter, who's gone to see it as his mother's request, is standing in a crowd of people and they start saying he's Peter Pan. Peter, kind of indignantly, says he's not - Barrie is.

What's interesting about that is the Peter, in real life, grew up to hate the play and was very upset that he didn't get any money from it when Barrie died. He (Peter) committed suicide.

(Actually, most of the brothers didn't fare too well. George, the oldest, died young in WWI. Michael drowned at age 20 with another young man who was probably his lover; folks still aren't sure if it was accidental or a suicide pact. Peter killed himself. Bad scene all around.)

I like this movie a lot. Yes, it's a kind of standard weepy drama, but Depp brings a nice vulnerability to his portrayal of Barrie. In the movie, as in life, he's accused of pedophilia, but it never really goes beyond "hey, people are talking." Hoffman as Frohman is nicely understated, but you get the feeling that he believes in Barrie, even if he's worried about losing money on him (by the way, Frohman died on the Lusitania because he refused a seat on a lifeboat).

It's a good performance by Winslet, and she manages to make her portrayal of a dying woman moving without going full Lifetime. Freddy Highmore, of course, is the standout as Peter - it was this role that led to him playing Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

There's a scene in the movie were Barrie's wife, Mitchell, expresses a desire to go to these worlds he creates, and that she's jealous that he includes Sylvia and the boys in his creative process but not her. I remember seeing this movie in theaters and having a conversation with Heather about that. I asked her if she ever felt excluded from my worlds. She said, "Not really. It's pretty scary in there." She had a point. :)

My grade: A-
Rewatch value: Low

Next up: First Strike

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January 2013

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