Finding Neverland (2004)
Directed by Marc Forster
Johnny Depp as Sir James Matthew Barrie
Kate Winslet as Sylvia Llewelyn Davies
Julie Christie as Mrs. Emma du Maurier
Radha Mitchell as Mary Ansell Barrie
Dustin Hoffman as Charles Frohman
Freddie Highmore as Peter Llewelyn Davies
Ian Hart as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Kelly McDonald as Peter Pan
Johnny Depp plays Sir James Matthew Barrie, the writer of Peter Pan. The movie is set in early 1903 and it covers a brief period of time during which Barrie got acquainted with the the Davis family who were key inspiration for the play Peter Pan. Johnny Depp has shed all the makeup, wigs and false teeth to play Barrie; he does look quite normal (and dashing) himself, but he did adapt a somewhat convincing accent for the role. Kate Winslet plays the widower Mrs Davis, who is the mother of the four boys that adapt Barrie as a father figure of sorts. Barrie, himself married with no children, is fascinated by the rich imaginary world of these children, he too is still just a child inside, having kept his imagination and thirst for adventure that his wife so obviously is missing.
Finding Neverland in essence is a pretty strong “feel good” movie. It is romanticized and unrealistic, but Depp’s charming and affectionate performance as Barrie makes the movie enjoyable from the beginning to the end (the end scene though is a tad too cheesy). The supporting cast is good; Julie Christie has a strong role as Winslet’s mother and Freddie Highmore proves himself to be one of the best child actors around with his role as one of the children, Peter. Dustin Hoffman is good but doesn’t have a very significant role as the theatre owner Frohman. The very sweet, talented but underrated and underused Scottish actress Kelly Mcdonald plays the Peter Pan in Barries play.
There are plenty of interesting connections between pirates, Peter Pan, Johnny Depp and this movie. Most notable is of course the fact that Depp himself got a huge career boost in 2003 playing the pirate captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of Caribbean, only one year before starring as Barrie, the creator of one of the most famous literary pirates in Peter Pan. Finding Neverland came out just year after the new big budget Peter Pan movie that starred Jason Isaacs as Captain Hook. And it is also interesting that Finding Neverland co-stars Dustin Hoffman, who starred as the title character in the previous big screen adaptation of Peter Pan; Steven Spielberg’s Hook. Another connection to the Pirates of the Caribbean movies comes in the form of the actor Mackenzie Crook, who starred both in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies (as Ragetti) and Finding Neverland (as The Usher Mr Jaspers). Johnny Depp got his two Oscar nominations for Pirates and Finding Neverland, and he co-starred with Finding Neverland’s Freddie Highmore again the next year in Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Furthermore, Finding Neverland also features Paul Whitehouse, who appeared as a voice of multiple characters in Corpse Bride. Everything is beautifully connected.
"In punishment for lack of an interesting pirate name, Peter shall walk the plank."