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Finding Neverland

Starring Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, Radha Mitchell and Dustin Hoffman
Screenplay by David Magee
Based on a play "The Man Who Was Peter Pan" by Allan Knee
Directed by Marc Forster

IN SHORT: (Another) Best of the Year. [Rated PG for Mild Thematic Elements and Brief Language. 108 minutes]

For ten years we have based this site on the premise that you, the reader, should not have to know the Source Material upon which any movie story is based. In the case of Finding Neverland, that would mean you should not have to be familiar with any of the details of the life of James M. Barrie (Johnny Depp), a very successful turn of the last century British playwright whose most famous and enduring work was Peter Pan, first as a stage play and later as a novelized version entitled Peter and Wendy. By the same rules of the site, you shouldn't have to know anything about Peter Pan, though we strongly doubt that any resident of the Western Hemisphere is that culturally deprived. Regardless, what little you may need to know of the radical, for its time, nature of the Pan play comes through nicely in the Finding Neverland script.

So, before we begin, two important things: This is not a film to be bringing single digit kids to, even though the Neverland of the title is exactly what you think it is. This is a grown up love story that flits around things you don't want to be explaining to a little kid. That being said, it is also a terrific film which had grown men in our audience in tears by its end. Not Cranky (but we were close).

London, 1903. When first seen, well known playwright James Barrie (Johnny Depp) is watching the opening night audience at his new play, called "Little Mary." While American producer Charles Frohman (Dustin Hoffman) does his professional best to work the opening night crowd and build potential word of mouth, the play is a bust. This doesn't please Barrie's wife Mary (Radha Mitchell), either. Though tenuously connected in London society, despite her husband's success, she is far from the heights to which she would like to climb. It seems plain that the love has gone out of the marriage, if indeed it was ever truly there in the first place.

As he has done many times before, Barrie takes his St Bernard, Porthos, to Kensington Park to romp and play with the children. While the dog plays, the master sits on a bench and writes. Writing is what Barrie does as a living and he includes other successful writers (Ian Hart appears briefly as "Arthur," as in Conan Doyle) in his circle of friends. There he plays with the children, specifically, those belonging to Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet), with whom he will develop a friendship.

So much the better, as the friendship will force Barrie's most famous work to begin to percolate in the creative areas of his gray matter. Barrie's wife will find a friend as well, but that's an entirely different story. Finding Neverland is not a chronological telling of events in Barrie's life. Some things are shuffled around. Some are, so we are told, omitted. What is present is, as in most films that Johnny Depp chooses to do, quite wonderful to watch. Again, Finding Neverland not for ten year olds. Grownups only

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Finding Neverland, he would have paid . . .


While the emphasis in this story is on the lives of the real characters, even as Pan is developed and presented on the London stage, the totality of the story as seen in our screening, at least, by the time it was finished, had grown men weeping openly in their seats in the screening room. Not Cranky . . . but we were close.

Frohman, btw, was on the Lusitania, rushing to England after being summoned by Barrie. He did not survive the sinking, though he did help actors on ship into the plentiful lifeboats

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