I was going to start this review with a paragraph on how Peter Pan was never really one of my favorites, but how I had enjoyed the live action version released in 2003, etc. But now, having seen Finding Neverland, forget all that. Not important.
Iím not sure how historically accurate this film is, but Finding Neverland is the story of how playwright J. M. Barrie was inspired to write Peter Pan. Itís a beautifully tragic story, and I have to admit, many a tear ran down my face. I guess I should actually say tragically beautiful, right?
Johnny Depp plays J.M. Barrie, and his performance is perfect. In fact Iím well aware of Oscar buzz for his performance, and itís funny, because when you think of Oscar buzz for acting, you tend to think of great sweeping emotional scenes or real scene chewing, etc. But here Depp is totally understated, even when hamming it up for young children. It all seems so natural. Really, itís perfect.
Kate Winslet plays a widowed mother of four whose family is basically taken over by Depp and his imagination. She plays the role with a quiet pride, and all the prim and proper decorum and early 1900ís lady would need, but also with a sense of humor and a charming sense of childlike awe. She too, really, is perfect.
In truth, the entire cast is brilliant. Julie Christie and Radha Mitchell are wonderful in smaller, but pivotal roles and I enjoyed Kelly Macdonaldís performance as Peter Pan. Stealing this film however is a young boy named Freddy Highmore. This kid will be famous soon, as he is playing Charlie in Tim Burtonís version of the Dahl classic Charlie and The Chocolate Factory opposite Depp as Willy Wonka. But here he plays a very somber little boy who really just breaks your heart. What a great job!
I look forward to Charlie enthusiastically!
Overall this film plays a bit like a biopic, but with brilliant flashes into Barrieís imagination, with scenes that are reminiscent of Tim Burton meets Masterpiece Theater. Like I said, I donít know how historically accurate the film is, but as a movie it is very entertaining and engrossing. Bittersweet, but beautiful.