Johnny Depp……….Sir James Matthew Barrie
Kate Winslet……….Sylvia Llewelyn Davies
Julie Christie……….Mrs. Emma du Maurier
Radha Mitchell……….Mary Ansell Barrie
Dustin Hoffman……….Charles Frohman
Freddie Highmore……….Peter Llewelyn Davies
Joe Prospero……….Jack Llewelyn Davies
Nick Roud……….George Llewelyn Davies
Luke Spill……….Michael Llewelyn Davies
Ian Hart……….Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Kelly Macdonald……….Peter Pan
Mackenzie Crook……….Mr. Jaspers – Usher
Eileen Essel……….Mrs. Snow
Jimmy Gardner……….Mr. Snow
Oliver Fox……….Gilbert Cannan
In the past three years or so, as a movie fan I’ve been a bit underwhelmed by alleged “breakout” performances. And no wonder when you have MTV backing Napoleon Dynamite as the alleged “breakout movie of the year” well before it was released, for example. When it premiered, Finding Neverland was hailed by a lot of people as being a triumph of cinema. For all the hype, all the pomp and circumstance this movie got early on, I was expecting a mediocre movie about the man who wrote “Peter Pan.”
I have never been so wrong in my life. If you ever wanted to see the definition of a cinematic masterpiece, this is it.
Finding Neverland has Depp as Sir James Matthew Barrie, the man who wrote Peter Pan in turn of the century London, England. The plot of the movie follows him from his big production to open the movie, which flops, into Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet) and her four boys while trying to write his next great play. Something inside of Barrie opens up, as the boys and their unfolding lives (with prerequisite drama from Julie Christie’s Mrs. Emma du Maurier). While this would seem like it would turn into some sort of sappy romantic comedy, the complication arises with Depp’s wife Mary Ansell Barrie (Radha Mitchell) and the world around them. While Barrie writes the play while engaging in a world of fantasy and make belive with the boys (Peter, Jack, George and Michael), the real world they occupy doesn’t care too much for Depp spending more time with someone else’s family than with his own.
The boys and Depp’s character have a very fascinating relationship in the movie. The children seem all too eager at times to grow up while J.M Barrie seems to need to tap into their childlike imagination in order to continue writing.
If there’s one thing that stands out in this movie is the use of special effects. While most movies generally tend to err against caution, the thing that really makes this movie click is that it uses little tricks effectively. Throughout the movie, the imagination of the children and Depp’s character is at work in little and big ways, but nothing extraordinary. What appears is little touches, little scenery, like something that a child would dream up. All of the grand imagery, the majestic scenes, is straight out of something a child’s imagination. There’s a scene with the group on a pirate ship, and the waves and whatnot are all cartoony, like how a child would imagine something he has never seen before. He wouldn’t imagine realistic waves and the majesty of the ocean, especially if he lives in London and has never seen any a body of water besides a lake or a pond. So the cartoonish kind of imagery stuck in the middle of the world of the real and the world of the imagination, yet tastefully done so as to not ruin the moment. It’s a world where reality and fantasy mix in a beautiful, refined way.
It would be easy to find fault with a lot of little things about the presentation of his character (like his Irish accent in England) Depp is absolutely amazing as Barrie. He drives the movie and carries it to a height not too many people could. In terms of a pure character-making, movie-taking performance, Depp’s J.M. Barrie carries this film in perhaps is best performance ever.
Finding Neverland is one of those rare masterpieces of cinema in which everything works on a superb level. The movie seems like more of a fairy tale, more of the Peter Pan of Barrie’s eyes, than it does seem a reality at some points in the movie. It’s not a bad thing, as this movie is well crafted. There are no dragging points, no part of the movie where you need to look at your watch.
The picture has been cleaned up from looking good on the big screen to looking spectacular on the television. The colors are much more vivid than they were during the theatrical release, leading to a much smoother looking picture. The visual effects are a lot more stunning as the movie itself has been given quite an upgrade over its’ theatrical release.
They didn’t skimp on the audio-visual portion of things as the movie comes in Dolby 5.1 surround sound. For a movie that isn’t reliant on noise, a certain subtlety and beauty comes out of the movie with its’ sound emerges. It is rather haunting, actually.
Feature Commentary with Director Marc Foster, Producer Rich Gladstein and Writer David Magee
Some clues and insights about the movie from the men who helped make it. They credit a lot of things to Depp’s creativity and ad-libbing, as they point out what parts in the script were changed by Depp on the fly and why they worked better his way. Mostly, though, they talk about a lot of the movie’s message, spirit and just how great they thought Depp was. They point out, scene by scene, what they wanted to accomplish and add in little points about the scenery, the houses they used, and other odds and ends.
The Magic of Finding Neverland
This is a behind the scenes look at the movie. The first part is a retrospect of the production itself. There isn’t anything out of the ordinary that they go through, as everyone praises each other as being brilliant and wanting to work with each other. The next portion is a brief history of the It touches on a lot of the history of the play Peter Pan itself, as it covers the origins of the production itself and counterbalances it with footage from the movie to give it a sense of historial placement. Lastly we have Johnny Depp and Dustin Hoffman talking about the concept of Neverland itself and its’ place in the imagination.
This is the story of the visual effects behind the story. The movie itself walks the line of fantasy and reality, and the visual effects staff goes through the visual effects they used and how they meshed the old way of building everything on a set and the new way of digital effects. It’s only three minutes long, but it’s more of a brief overview of the major effects sequences than anything else. In their slotted time the visual effects people try and cram as much broad information as they can into the piece; they talk about how they used 200 people to simulate 1,000 for the shots of the theatre crowd and the problems that turn up
On the red carpet
This is a glittery puff piece about the movie’s premiere overseas. Everyone raves about the movie and Johnny Depp, in that order, and the cast talks about the movie after it has premiered in little tidbits. Hillary Clinton makes an appearance with glowing praise about the movie as well. There is talk about “Peter Pan” as well, which is interesting to a certain degree, from Clinton and Dustin Hoffman.
This contains three scenes deleted from the movie. We have the scenes themselves as well as commentary from the director, producer and writer. They discuss the scenes and their relation to the movie. Mostly they were deleted due to the fact that the information we get from these scenes is self-evident in the movie itself. It is a sign of the quality editing work they did more than anything else. The commentary sheds some light as well, as they talk (however brief) about how they thought while during the production process that these scenes were going to be cut as well.
This is just a collection of outtakes from the movie which are amusing to various degrees. The gem of all of these is the dinner scene. Johnny Depp installed a machine that played loud flatulence with a control at his hand; during it and they try and play it straight, to continue to do the scene, but end up laughing up a storm right at the end.