*** Official FINDING NEVERLAND Review Thread

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Patrick Sun, Oct 30, 2004.

  1. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator

    Jun 30, 1999
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    Tonight I caught a sneak peak showing of "Finding Neverland", a film inspired by the story of how James Barrie came to befriend a widow with 4 boys, and how that friendship provided the inspiration for Barrie to write "Peter Pan," a play/story that has enthralled the young and old alike for a century now.

    Johnny Depp is very good in his role as Barrie (though his accent sounded more Irish than Scottish, and Barrie was born a Scot, but moved to London, so why he sounded Irish, I have no idea, maybe Scots in 1904 sounded Irish, but it's just a minor quibble). Kate Winslet is also up to the task as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, the widow with 4 boys. The Llewelyn Davies boys are good, but the boy (Freddie Highmore) playing Peter was really good in capturing the complexity of childhood and having to deal with his father's early demise from a child's perspective where the world appears to be a fair place to live, but events conspire to take away that worldview in the blink of an eye.

    I normally don't tear up at movies, but there is something about how this film builds up the relationships, confronts the age of innocence and the question of just when does it end, and adulthood begin. There's a subtle moment in the film that captures that transition, and you can't help but get teary-eyed as Barrie does what he knows best to stave off adulthood trappings as best he can for the boys (and perhaps himself as well) by writing the play, but it's a losing battle in some respects, but in others, his enduring play gives the audience a chance to recapture that innocent time where all things are possible and magic is part and parcel with that special place in one's heart, Neverland, where the best of everything is waiting for each one of us regardless of the events of adulthood that work to erode that child-like perspective in all of us.

    By the end of the film, not a dry eye in the house, and each tear and sniffle was earned by a worthy screenplay, solid direction, and very good acting performances all around. The film draws on the emotional power of finding a way to access your own personal Neverland in order to deal with what life has in store for you.

    I give it 3.75 stars, or a grade of A-.
  2. MattGentry

    MattGentry Second Unit

    Apr 22, 2003
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    I really must agree with you.

    An amazing movie that truly moves you. One of the best I've seen all year...
  3. Janna S

    Janna S Second Unit

    Feb 17, 2001
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    I'd been predisposed to like this, but I was caught up in it even more than I'd expected. It's visually rich, and appropriately quiet in its beginning, but it picks up great power despite having almost no surprises.

    Depp's character is winsome but not without opinion and force. It's a funny contrast to Captain Jack Sparrow in a few little bits. Julie Christie does a very believable transformation without losing her character's edge; Kate Winslet is completely believable and her delivery is impeccable. The boys are good, particularly the oldest and Peter. Radha Mitchell is also good at an essentially unsympathetic character in a failing marriage with two sides to the story. Smaller characters, including several of the actors in the play, and Dustin Hoffman, have exquisite little bits. I loved both dogs . . . .

    There is lots of throwaway dialog that is funny and charming (listen for the haggis bit). The cutting back and forth between reality and make believe is wonderful. And ultimately the film has great emotional power. It exquisitely delivered messages of belief, and innocence, and grief. It had the same kind of power for me that Shadowlands had.

    One caution - it did not seem to hold the interest of the children in this evening's sneak preview audience. The family of four (with children probably 5 and 7) who sat next to me left about a third of the way through. I was very thankful that the parents recognized that their children were impatient and bored, and that they left without a fuss.
  4. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator

    Dec 9, 1998
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    This thread is now the Official Review Thread for "Finding Neverland". Please post all HTF member reviews in this thread.

    Any other comments, links to other reviews, or discussion items will be deleted from this thread without warning!

    If you need to discuss those type of issues then I have designated an Official Discussion Thread.

  5. Tim Schwalk

    Tim Schwalk Extra

    Sep 25, 1999
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    What a refreshing surprise! With few expectations, Finding Neverland really blew me away. It’s imaginative, humorous, inspiring, moving, and entertaining. It’s not often that Hollywood can deliver such honest emotion wrapped in such an inspirational story. This is absolutely one of the best films this year.

    Finding Neverland tells the story of ‘Peter Pan’ author, J.M. Barrie (Johnny Depp), and details the experiences that lead him to write his classic tale. After his latest play bombs, Barrie finds inspiration through the children of a local woman who is left raising her 4 children after her husband’s death. His special relationship with this family, and in particular one boy Peter, drives him to craft his story and create Neverland, a joyous and magical place. From their adventures through boyhood imagination, Barrie becomes an inspiration for those that inspire him the most.

    Director Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball) has crafted an entertaining and moving film. The pacing is deliberate and the emotion is honest. The way he jumps between reality and the world of imagination is a treat to watch. I also have to commend Forster for not letting the film become too sappy in the end.

    Johnny Depp gives yet another terrific performance, delivering his lines with a Scottish accent that sounds both natural and convincing. His boyish looks help you to believe he is just a big kid, and his interactions with the boys are natural and sincere.

    Kate Winslett’s portrayal of a mother struggling to stay afloat is honest and full of emotion. She is a fine actress and this was a fine performance. It’s no surprise that with ‘Finding Neverland’ and ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,’ Kate Winslett has appeared in two of the top three movies of 2004. She is a tremendous talent and is well utilized here.

    Despite the strong performances by Depp and Winslett, young actor Freddie Highmore steals the show with his portrayal of Peter, a young boy who has grown up too quickly trying to cope with his father’s death. This young man is special and I dare you not to be moved by his performance. The onscreen relationship between the boy who refuses to stay young and the playwright who refuses to grow up, is captivating and a pleasure to watch.

    By the end of the film, there wasn’t a dry eye in the theater. I pinched myself on several occasions trying to detach myself from the emotion of the story. Never heavy handed, Finding Neverland aims for your heart, and scores a big hit.

    Finding Neverland is a magical, imaginative masterpiece. Easily one of the best films of the year, I would recommend this gem to anyone.
  6. Phil L

    Phil L Supporting Actor

    Dec 27, 1998
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    I really enjoyed it. Depp gave a very solid performance. Made me want to see a version of Peter Pan (went with the 2003 version, which was itself pretty good).
  7. ThomasC

    ThomasC Lead Actor

    Dec 15, 2001
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    Not as good as I thought it would be, but it's still worth a viewing.
  8. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

    Feb 12, 1998
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    Copied from the 2004 Alternative Thread; written on Nov. 16, 2004:

    It's beautifully acted, expertly directed and features some gorgeous scenery. But it left me cold. Maybe it's because I've never been a big fan of the Peter Pan story. If one isn't enchanted by the Neverland saga, one isn't likely to be enchanted by the experience of someone conjuring it up.

    Still, I wasn't bored and, more importantly, I wasn't uncomfortable watching this (heavily fictionalized) story of how English playwright J.M. Barrie inserted himself into the Davies family and used them as raw material for his most successful creation. In different hands, both behind and in front of the camera, this could have been downright creepy. Johnny Depp's portrayal of Barrie is so winning, and Marc Forster's direction is so assured, that the more questionable elements of the story remain banished to the edges. It's also good to have Dustin Hoffman (as Barrie's producer) and Julie Christie (as the Davies grandmother), because their characters supply a needed dose of skepticism and a tartness that helps cut the sentimentality.

    I doubt Johnny Depp will win the Oscar for this film, unless it's considered some sort of make-up. But he's always interesting to watch, and this film is no exception. I can't quite bring myself to recommend this, but I don't think you'll feel the time was wasted.

  9. Edwin Pereyra

    Edwin Pereyra Producer

    Oct 26, 1998
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    James Matthew Barrie’s life and inspiration for his most famous work is portrayed and remembered in Marc Forster’s Finding Neverland. Johnny Depp portrays the playwright complete with a Scottish accent. Inasmuch as the film is about Barrie and the origins of Peter Pan “inspired” by true events, the more engaging element of the story is the relationship between him and the sons of Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, especially Peter Davies, who Barrie formed a relationship with and served as the inspiration for his play.

    Peter Davies is played by Freddie Highmore, who earlier this year was seen in Two Brothers. Barrie’s relationship with Davies is the film’s centerpiece and is handled with such maturity and honesty by Depp, Highmore and Forster. When Barrie and Davies talk about mortality later in the picture, it is handled with intelligence and genuine emotions. (Incidentally, these two worked so well with each other that they will re-team in Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.)

    Peter Pan celebrates its centenary in a month since it premiered at the Duke of York’s Theater in London on December 27, 1904. Finding Neverland comes at a very opportune time to honor Barrie and his classic work. Along with last year’s well-made live action version by P.J. Hogan, Peter Pan through Neverland comes full circle as it remembers and celebrates its author and its origins.

    Neverland’s strong performances by Depp, Highmore, Kate Winslet and Julie Christie along with its well-conceived production values does good to both J. M. Barrie and his most treasured classic. While certain events have been fictionalized, for me, it is the honest portrayal of the man and child relationship that stands out.

  10. Dave Hackman

    Dave Hackman Stunt Coordinator

    Jan 11, 2000
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    The beginning of this could easily be re-titled the E true-life story of Michael Jackson. People are beginning to talk about why you spend so much time with 4 young boys. This told by a friend of Sir James Matthew Barrie the imaginative playwright played by no other then Johnny BGood Depp. Barrie replies: Is this world so awful that one can’t enjoy the company of young boys? MJ must have shed a tear or 2 during this scene as he has uttered similar words recently when asked the exact same question.

    I mean look at Barrie’s beautiful wife who he never talked too let alone touched. Look at the boy’s mother Sylvia Davies played by Kate Winslet, every time they spent any time together he never expressed any romantic interest in her. He just wanted to play with the boys.

    In the end I’m afraid that I must come to the conclusion that the creator of peter pan portrayed in this fictional film is Jackson’s soul brother. He has been allowed to spend an unusual amount of time with boys whom he has no relations with. This justified by his creative needs and desires that go unchallenged by all those that know him. Amazing what people allow you to do when you’re famous and when you through some cash or servants their way.

    Above not withstanding, I found this to be a really good film that is brought to the big screen pleasantly with a very easy to digest point of view. Edited to the tees, and emotionally charged this fat free movie provides chemical free nourishment for your soul and mind.

    Oh yeah, Dustin Hoffman is one hot actor of late; he provides subtle funny comments that are just perfect and that never approach the overdone I hope I don’t see him anymore level. Dustin plays Charles Frohman the producer and main moneybags of the playhouse and he is a welcome asset to this film.

    Depp – Good
    Winslet – Good
    Hoffman – Good

    My initial assessment – Scary

    Overall movie – Good

  11. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

    Nov 5, 1998
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    I agree, although toward the end I think the film fleshes out the inspiration shared between Depp and Winslet as well.

    My 2004 Film thread post...
    Finding Neverland
    10 of 10

    Neverland builds momentum extremely well and this allows it to hit some later scenes with a full punch to the heart like real tear-jerkers should. The film is full of the imagination that we would associate with a story like Peter Pan, but it also takes on other challenges equally well, such as social boundries, relationship issues and coping with death.

    Any one of those subjects is enough to build a film around, but Neverland has them deftly interwoven into one solid, satifying piece of finding and providing inspiration in and to others. It certainly had me choked up at times, yet thrilled for the little triumphs as well. It should surprise no one that Depp, Winslet and Julie Christie are all outstanding in their roles, while Hoffman shines in his cute one-dimensional bit part.

    Don't be fooled into thinking this is a dry actors piece of costume drama. It has all of the magic of Peter Pan himself, both visually and in its story.
  12. Tim Glover

    Tim Glover Lead Actor

    Jan 12, 1999
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    Monroe, LA
    Real Name:
    Tim Glover
    Finally got to see this over the holidays.

    Bottom line?

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] out of [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Perhaps the best movie I've seen in years. Certainly one of the most engaging and emotionally powerful films I've seen. And it's not one of those bang you over the head tear jerkers that manipulates you.

    It's wonderfully directed. Tremendous acting. Depp & Winslet both deserve Oscars as does the actor portraying Peter. In fact, the cast was incredible.

    The score was beautiful too. I really can't think of any negatives here. Slow in the beginning...it's building the characters...then somehow, I really began caring and felt a part of these people on screen.

    In a time of so many fantasy films, Finding Neverland is the one that delivers the real magic.
  13. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

    Feb 8, 2001
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    One of the best films of the year, hands down. Brilliant and beautiful. The boys are wonderful, Winslet is perfect and Depp is absolutely magical (Wonka should be Incredible). Everything about this movie was perfect, number three for the year for me!
  14. Haggai

    Haggai Producer

    Nov 3, 2003
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    Catching up with some late-year Oscar contenders, I saw this one today, and I enjoyed it very much. I have to say that the trailers I saw were pretty underwhelming in terms of selling what this movie is all about. Seth's comment above, which I definitely agree with, doesn't seem like it was heeded by the publicity department on this one:

    The beautiful scene in the parlor probably could have ended the movie. Perhaps with some end-titles to get across the one or two plot points that came in the final scene, which didn't accomplish much else, in my eyes, aside from the expository wrap-ups.

    The other noticeable weakness for me was Radha Mitchell. Man, I thought she was just lousy, completely wooden and one-note the whole way through. Plot-wise, her character's arc is basically an "adult" counter-part to Barrie: having most likely been enchanted by his imagination when she was younger, she now wants to focus on more "grown-up" things like political activism and high-society social life, so she feels like she's outgrown the eternal kid in her husband. But none of this came across in Mitchell's performance, as she just seemed completely boring. I really didn't buy her as Barrie's wife at all--what did he see in her? Though I don't want to harp too much on an actor whom I've never seen in anything else before, it just seemed entirely obvious to me that she was way out of her league in all of her scenes with the always-interesting Depp.

    OK, enough with the bad vibes, I really did enjoy this movie, promise. [​IMG] Aside from the aforementioned parlor scene, another stand-out was the pirate-ship scene with Barrie, Sylvia, and the kids. Hilarious dialogue, some great character moments, and wonderful intercutting between the real-life and make-believe settings. I don't remember any of it being in the trailer; I definitely think it should have been prominently featured! Depp played Captain Hook in a pretty classical movie-pirate shiver-me-timbers style, but how AWESOME would it be if there were some outtakes of him doing it in the style of Captain Jack Sparrow! [​IMG]

    Another good scene was when Christie told Depp what she thought of how he was affecting Winslet's "future prospects." Some good character development there, demonstrating that she's not all snobbery and villainy, she really is trying to protect her daughter.

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