371 of 399 people found the following review helpful
One reviewer here suggests that you should not seek out the "true" story of how Peter Pan came to be made, because if you do, and then compare the true story to this movie, your enjoyment of Finding Neverland will decrease significantly. I must respectfully disagree with that. Yes, there were a few facts that were fudged - but that's all, just a few. The core of both stories is the same: how an adult came to find a muse within children, and to use his inspiration to write a genre breaking play that gave the world one of the most endearing characters in all of fiction.
Unlike many who have posted reviews, I have never been overly fond of Johnny Depp. However, that was not the case in this film. I've seen countless films of his, and enjoyed them on one level or another, but his personal involvement never affected me in a positive way. The perfect example for this is Chocolat, easily one of my favorite films, but I could have taken or left Johnny Depp. Finding Neverland has changed my opinion of Mr. Depp entirely, and I now count myself one of his fans. His performance was so understated, so sublime, so perfect that he made an admirer out of me. It takes an amazing performance to do such a thing, and this was an amazing performance.
Kate Winslet was Kate Winslet: without fault, capable of evoking emotion with a simple cough. The moment she appeared on the screen seemed almost to be the beginning of the film. Rather - the moment her character and her character's children appeared on film was when it really began
Winslet and Depp had terrific chemistry on screen - in fact, they may have had too much. They looked so good when they were together, that it seemed as if they should have been husband and wife. I kept expecting them to get together, but since one of the fudged facts is that Winslet's character's husband was still alive during all of this, that was impossible.
The film did a wonderful job showing something that would have been highly frowned upon in today's society. A grown man, spending all of his time with children? There may have been a restraining order placed upon him with today's sensibilities. Thankfully, yesterday wasn't today.
216 of 243 people found the following review helpful
on December 14, 2004
A film by Marc Forster
J.M Barrie (Johnny Depp) is something of a failed playwright. His latest play has just flopped on opening night. The audience was bored and left the theatre saying how dreadful it was. His relationship with his wife, Mary (Radha Mitchell) is chilly and loveless. But James Barrie still has an incredibly fertile imagination, turning the mundane into something more spectacular and wondrous, if only in his mind. While writing in a park James encounters the Davies family with one of the boys lying under the bench Barrie is sitting on. This boy is pretending to have been imprisoned by the king, George (Nick Roud), who is really just his older brother. Barrie, unlike what most adults would do, plays right along with the scene and tries to bargain young Michael (Luke Spill) out of jail. Immediately Barrie seems to form a friendship with the family, performing a little play with his dog for the family, which includes the mother Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet) and her other two sons Peter (Freddie Highmore) and Jack (Joe Prospero). Barrie spends more and more time with the Davies, befriending Sylvia and playing make believe with the children. From this relationship we see instances of Barrie's imagination taking hold and the creation of aspects of "Peter Pan".
Three of the boys join in and play every game with James Barrie, but young Peter does not. Still grieving and resentful at the death of his father, Peter will not play. In talking with James, however, Peter starts to come out of his shell. It is clear that this friendship, which is entirely innocent of anything romantic (in the case of Sylvia) or otherwise is of great comfort both to the Davies family as well as to James Barrie. There is conflict, of course. Sylvia's mother, Mrs Emma Du Maurier (Julie Christie) disapproves because of Barrie's behavior but also because she feels that the friendship will only cause a scandal and ruin any chance of Sylvia's being able to remarry into "Society". Barrie, of course, is married. This is the other major conflict. Mary is resentful of the time Barrie spends away from her, but it is also clear that their relationship is not working even before he met Sylvia and her family. They were already sleeping in separate bedrooms (though that may have been a cultural thing, I am not sure).
While all of this is happening, the producer of Barrie's plays, Charles Frohman (Dustin Hoffman) is trying to get Barrie's new play financed and is very worried when he sees what it is. It is a play about fairies and children with an alligator and a grown man who must dress up in a dog costume. Since these plays are shown to the "High Society", it is a play destined to flop. Coming from the twenty first century, we also know it is destined to become a classic in "Peter Pan".
Rated PG, "Finding Neverland" is a wonderful family film. In fact, that is the exact word that came to mind as I walked out of the theatre: Wonderful. There is truly a sense of wonder about J.M. Barrie and his imagination which created Neverland. His friendship with the Davies comes off as genuine and heartfelt and entirely natural. Johnny Depp's performance carries the movie, though Winslet and the four children are also to be commended for how well "Finding Neverland" has turned out. Depp is much more restrained here than in most of his other movie, but he still is able to shine through with a quirkly personality that feels appropriate to Barrie. "Finding Neverland" is a very imaginative movie, beautifully shot, with enough scenes of Barrie's imagination to override what could have otherwise been a drab London. This is clearly one of the best movies of the year.
45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2004
I was lucky enough to catch this at the sneak preview and I am so glad I did. Now when I write a review for a movie starring Johnny Depp I can hardly say my opinion is unbiased, as I do own 10 movies he's starred in and two posters adorn my walls, but I believe non-fans of him will enjoy the magic of "Finding Neverland."
The story of J.M. Barrie and his inspiration for the famous play "Peter Pan" will pull on your heartstrings and make you see the magic of being a child and the power of imagination. During a chance meeting at a park after a disastrous play the night before, Barrie (Johnny Depp) meets the widow Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet) and her four boys. They become quick friends because of Barrie's childlike personality and antics.
The whole movie is very well-casted with both the adults and the children. Depp gives his usual knockout performance that makes you believe that he truly is J.M. Barrie. Kate Winslet also shines at Sylvia Davies and plays her role with elegance and truly fits her character. Still, one of the best stars in the movie is Freddie Highmore who plays Peter, Barrie's inspiration for the boy who never wants to grow up. He displays his emotions so well and makes a real connection with the audience. Castmates, Depp and Winslet, were very impressed with his acting talent, and Depp even got Highmore the role of Charlie in the upcoming movie "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Highmore almost steals the show, but Depp and Winslet's performances shine through with their onscreen chemistry and a lot of heart. The supporting cast featuring Julie Christie and Dustin Hoffman is not to be ignored, as they both give great performances as their characters. Julie Christie plays a perfect sort of `villian' in the film as Sylvia's mother who wants Barrie out of her son's lives and Dustin Hoffman brings comedic light wherever he shows up in the movie as Barrie's play producer.
The story is simplistic, but is told with a lot of charm and a great mixture of humor and emotions that will make you laugh and then, moments later, get teary-eyed. `Finding Neverland' is a magical ride with great acting and can take you away to your own Neverland.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2004
This story is based on James Barrie, the playwright best known for Peter Pan and it is one of the best films that I've seen this year, despite receiving next to no hype or marketing push.
James Barrie (Johnny Depp) is a playwright, successful enough to have a nice house with servants, and a beautiful wife (Radha Mitchell). Still, his marriage seems distant and he is bothered by the mediocrity of his creative output. On opening night, people complement him on his terrible plays and he knows they are just trying to be nice.
One day while sitting on a park bench, he encounters three adolescent boys, who he quickly befriends. He invites them over for dinner and also solidifies a friendship with their mother, played by Kate Winslet, much to the disappointment of his wife and her mother, the stern, protective Julie Christie. The boy's father died from cancer and to some extent, his becomes their playmate, without trying to replace their dad. At the same time, his wife becomes increasingly disenchanted that her husband is spending so much time with another woman and her children.
As his friendship grows with the boys and her mother, he begins to develop a play, loosely based about them. While initially met with skepticism in the planning stages, the play ends up becoming Barrie's most famous creation.
While less visually fantastic than last year's Big Fish by Tim Burton, Finding Neverland has its own tastefully limited special effects, but it outshines Burton's film in its amount of sheer heart.
I actually ended up seeing this film since I arrived too late for the film I originally wanted to see. At the end of Finding Neverland, I was not even slightly surprised to see the audience burst into applause. It was also nice to see that the film was sold out.
The acting is well done without being spectacular. I enjoyed Johnny Depp's performance, but he didn't play the role with an extraordinary amount of charisma. Some people will see this as a failing, but I think a genuine performance is better than glitzy but shallow one. One of the children is particularly strong, playing the role of Peter. He's the youngest but at the same time he's complex, cynical and surprisingly mature.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on July 13, 2005
"Finding Neverland" is that rare gem of a movie that takes its audience seriously. So many of the movies out of Hollywood are geared towards the 16 to 25 year old male perspective. Action, dumb plot, stupid characters, etc. "Neverland" is a movie that doesn't pander to emotion. It doesn't show us yet another unnecessary action scene. And it doesn't make every relationship obsessed with sex.
What you get with "Neverland" is a movie that takes you to another time and gives you insight into the mind of a great writer and the experiences which influenced him. It is a patient movie, more interested in creating a tone and place to help us understand the concepts of Neverland, imagination, and reality.
While perhaps not the focus of the director (and probably unnoticed by most viewers), "Neverland" is also a refreshing depiction of a male character dealing with children. While Barrie is depicted as being child-like, he is still a grown man with an adult's ability in relating to children. Far too often we're inundated with media images of the stupid father figure, the doofus, who doesn't have a clue. With Depp's characterization of Barrie we see a man who can play with children and yet still be an adult.
Johnny Depp, almost as matter of course, once again delivers a performance that is all the more amazing given his body of work as a whole. This the same man who did "Pirates of the Caribbean," "What's Eating Gilbert Grape," and a dozen other movies in widely divergent character roles. And Kate Winslet seems to be only getting better with age, both in ability and beauty.
There seems to be a number of reviewers claiming that "Neverland" is slow or that it's pretentious. If you enjoy well made movies you can ignore these comments. Of course, don't fall prey to the hype, either. "Finding Neverland" might not become your most favorite film, but it is worth both viewing and owning as a DVD. I can't say that about too many films these days.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2005
This movie is one of the most wonderful I have ever seen. It is terribly hard for movies to make me cry, but by the end of this movie, I felt so connected to the characters that I was in tears. The story is beautiful, the costumes and set are brilliant, and Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet have Oscar-quality performances.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2004
I went to the screening of `Finding Neverland' and found it to be a wonderful movie! Rarely do we get to watch a movie in which the story is filled with so much fantasy, imagination, and spirit that will keep us entertained throughout the movie.
The story starts off with James Barrie, a Scottish playwright whose most recent work is a failure. One day in the park, he meets Sylvia Davies, a widow, and her four boys and strikes up a conversation with him. Little by little, he becomes closer to them, and gets inspired to write a new play, one that would be one of the greatest classics of our time.
The film focuses mainly on Barrie's relationship with the Davies family, and by viewing small things such as the children's behavior, how he created Peter Pan and the Lost Boys, and added the pirates and the Indians to create a magical masterpiece.
Marc Forster, the director of this movie (who also directed Monster's Ball) gives us magic in this story inspired by the life of James Barrie, the author of `Peter Pan'. Johnny Depp acted flawlessly as J.M.Barrie. His expressions (along with the accent) were perfect, and his performance laudable. The rest of the cast, including Kate Winslet, Dustin Hoffman and Julie Christie also acted incredibly well. However, I was really amazed by the performance of Freddie Highmore, the young boy who acted as Peter Davies in the movie, especially towards the end of the movie.
I think this is one of the best movies to be released this year. If you loved watching movies like `Big Fish', you will definitely enjoy this movie.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2005
Johnny Depp gives one of his most subtle performances to date in "Finding Neverland," a film about the creative process that has a thing or two to say about the part imagination plays in all our lives. In this adaptation of the play by Allan Knee, Depp plays J.M. Barrie, the author who, in 1904, introduced the world to Peter Pan. According to the movie (though not necessarily reality), Barrie gleaned the inspiration for his creation from a beautiful young widow and her four sons whom he met one day in the park and with whom he forged a deep and lasting relationship (there are a few factual errors in that synopsis, but in the interest of keeping your confusion to a minimum, I`ll recount the story as the movie presents it). In his endeavors to entertain the children, Barrie brought them into his world of magical make believe, eventually weaving the story of Peter Pan out of those experiences.
When we first meet Barrie, he is already a well-known and successful playwright in the London theater world - although his latest work has bored his audience and critics so thoroughly in its premiere performance that it is forced to close on opening night. Suffering from creative stagnation and stuck in a stifling marriage, Barrie eventually finds surcease and an outlet for his creativity with his new-found "family" from the park. However, even though the film technically takes place in the Edwardian Era, the iron hand of Victorian Era morality still holds England in its icy grip. For soon rumors are flying not only about the "unseemly" relationship between Barrie and Mrs. Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, but even about the questionable and potentially sinister nature of Barrie's relationship with the boys.
Written by David Magee and directed by Marc Foster, "Finding Neverland" offers a touching, fascinating glimpse into the mind of a man in the process of creating one of the most enduring tales of modern literature. One of the marks of any "classic" work of inspiration - be it art, music, literature or drama - is that we are never aware of the nuts-and-bolts process that has gone into its creation. The greater the work, the more we are inclined to believe that it dropped fully formed from heaven, a rare gift from the gods that seems somehow always to have existed somewhere. That is certainly the case with "Peter Pan," which is why "Finding Neverland" provides such an invaluable service. It forces us to acknowledge that even the greatest of creations, which we tend to attribute to that mysterious and intangible entity known as "genius," are really the product of one part inspiration to two parts fortuitous timing and hard work. "Finding Neverland" flows effortlessly between the events as they happened in real life and the fantasy scenarios that Barrie eventually wove out of them to create his masterpiece. As a result, the movie itself has a kind of heightened fairy tale feel to it that works well in the context of the story. The movie also affords us an entertaining behind-the-scenes view of the creation of the play itself and a breathless recreation of its opening night.
In addition to Depp, the film is filled with fine performances by Kate Winslet as Sylvia, Julie Christie as her stern, disapproving mother, Dustin Hoffman as Barrie's sympathetic theater manager, and Radha Mitchell, as Barrie's cold, status-conscious wife. The four young actors who play the boys are also excellent, with Freddie Highmore, as the precocious and too-cynical-for-his-own-good Peter, a particular standout.
Historians may find room to quibble about some of the liberties the film takes with the facts. Sylvia was not a widow at the time of the story and her husband resented the intrusion of Barrie into their lives. Even one of the sons has been dropped. This is acceptable, however, since an over-cluttered plot would likely have robbed the film of the simplicity it needs to sustain its fairy tale ambiance. Moreover, the movie telescopes a number of key events to enhance their dramatic impact (i.e. his wife's affair with writer Gilbert Cannan, which is shown as being a contemporaneous event, actually occurred a number of years after this part of the story). But such nitpicking seems fruitless in the overall scheme of the film.
Was Peter Llewelyn Davies the real inspiration for Peter Pan or was it J.M. Barrie himself? The film doesn't answer that question, but it certainly hints at the distinct possibility of the latter. For Barrie was clearly a man who much preferred the warm fantasies of carefree childhood to the cold cynicism of responsible adulthood. And that, of course, has always been the heart and soul - as well as the life's blood - of his own paean to eternal youth, "Peter Pan."
12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2004
Johnny Depp has never been an actor to do "mainstream" movies, with the exception of Pirates of the Caribbean. The same holds true for Finding Neverland, which has a feel of an independent movie.
The story takes place in 1903 and is about author J.M. Barrie (Depp) and how he became inspired to write the play "Peter Pan." Basically he was at the park and met the Davies Family. Sylvia (Kate Winslet) is the mom/widow of the family whom has four boys that she is responsible for. James begins the hang out with the family on a regular basis. He plays cowboys or pirates with the boys. As he does this, he writes down all of his ideas and images, which eventually turns out to be "Peter Pan."
Johnny Depp gaves an amazing performance. I really hope that he gets his long over-due Oscar for this performance. Everytime that he is in a movie, he makes it a better. He is the perfect person to play the role of a grown man who doesn't want to grow up. Kate Winslet also gives a good, dramatic performance. Julie Christie and Dustin Hoffman are also featured in this film and due well for having limited roles.
The movies itself was really good. It seems like the kind of movie that would get boring, but it actually didn't. I was very interested in the movie the whole way through. Marc Forster did an excellent job of directing this movie. I especially like how he showed what James is thinking in his imagination. Also the way the recreation of the original "Peter Pan" play is something to see. Forster definately did his homework on the original "Peter Pan" play.
So my recommendation is the check this movie out. It is a very entertaining movie, that provides you with a good message. Imagination is the greatest gift of all and to always try to find and keep alive the inner child in you. Thats a great message, but just don't take it to Michael Jackson levels.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 22, 2005
I have a particular interest in the development of Johnny Depp's career; the man has shown genius for so long (Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow), but he really went over the edge in "Pirates", and suddenly he's a force to be reckoned with. Johnny Depp is the best of our current crop of actors working today. The man has control, insight and tremendous ability to entertain, as the situation sees fit. After the crazy performance in "Pirates", Mr. Depp gives a subdued, thorougly complete rendition of J. M. Barrie's life during the creation of Peter Pan. Very fine performances from Kate Winslet, Julie Christie and a bunch of really good kid actors made this a wonderful film experience; a feel-good film that's intelligent enough for kids of all ages. A young (20's) female friend of mine thought it was dumb. As a 50+ male, I can relate, especially since I'm amused at the idea of "Peter Pan Syndrome". I hope I never grow up.