Directed by Marc Forster ("Monster's
Written by David Magee. Based on a play of J.M. Barrie's
life by Allan Knee.
Starring Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Freddie Highmore and Dustin
Release Year: 2004
Review Date: 11/28/04
I was walking out of the theater this
afternoon and I was trying to place "Finding Neverland" in the
hierarchy of guaranteed ManTear films ever. And, I have to
say, this might be right near the top.
Based on true events surrounding the
creation of the classic play "Peter Pan", "Finding Neverland"
follows a famous London playwright named J.M. Barrie (Johnny Depp)
in 1903 just after a play he has written completely bombs, at a time
when Barrie is trying to capitalize on his recent successes.
He goes back to the drawing board to write a new masterpiece when he
meets Sylvia Llewelyn-Davies (Kate Winslet), a widowed mother of
four young boys that plays in the same park where Barrie normally
spends his time writing. The twosome hit it off immediately,
and Barrie's playful imagination and his growing relationship with
the boys--particularly Sylvia's son Peter (Freddie Highmore)--lead
him to write what will become one of the great artistic creations of
the 20th century. It will also lead Barrie to some bumps in
the road with his wife (Radha Mitchell, most recently from
"Man on Fire")
and with his longtime producer (Dustin Hoffman).
This is good stuff. The acting is
très magnifique; Depp took time off from craft in "Secret
Window" but he's back on point here, giving Barrie an interesting
depth of solid humanitarian with a slight eccentricity; he seems
like a guy you could hang out with but that also has a silly streak
that would occasionally keep you from introducing him to your
friends. Getting Julie Christie for the film as Sylvia's
overprotective mother is a great move; Christie gives you a mother
that's a bit more accessible than Maggie Smith (from
and other films) or Geraldine McEwan (from
Magdalene Sisters"), but she has her
too-stern-to-be-believed-but-still-great-for-movie-moments scenes as
Freddie Highmore plays Peter, and he's good
enough to make you think that for the first time since Haley Joel
Osment first broke out with
"The Sixth Sense"
a few years ago, another child actor has a great shot of getting
notice when acting award nominations are handed out in a few weeks.
He's that good. Highmore has these eyes that just make you
stare at them; he plays a character that is initially quite distant
to Depp's Barrie, and I loved the way Peter goes from disbeliever
to...lukewarm servant, never feeling like he is totally onboard with
Barrie for nearly the whole film. It's a subtle shift that is
fun watching, and it matches well with the more emotional bits later
in the film.
If you loved "Peter Pan" and know what it
can do for the imagination (young or not), I think you will like
"Finding Neverland." However, I was not prepared for an
emotional final fifteen minutes, during which time I haven't heard
this much sniffling, coughing and crying maybe since maybe
"In America" or
"The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" last year.
Seriously, this gave "Glory"--my all-time, absolute no-brainer,
you're-not-a-man-if-you-don't-cry-during-the-end-battle film--a run
during its last couple of scenes; I mean, I heard people today just
openly crying during the last bit of "Finding Neverland", and I
think that helped set me off, too. I just didn't see it
coming, but then I was in that Dick Vermeil-inspired "I told myself
I wouldn't cry!" phase, and then I was all "Damn, that's
beautiful...damn!" before finally going to "Hold me, dammit...somebody
Great stuff. Hey, it's Miramax, so if
those promotions gurus decide to ride this film come Oscar time, you
know at least a nomination is coming their way...but, I can at least
say that this flick is deserved of a nod. Check it out!
Rating: Opening Weekend
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard