ARCHIVE REVIEW: Finding Neverland

Finding Neverland
Directed by: Marc Forster
Written by: David Magee (screenplay) Allen Knee (play)
Starring: Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Dustin Hoffman, Julie Christie, Freddie Highmore

Finding Neverland is the Jonny Depp film Tim Burton has attempted to make time over and time over, and has failed to create despite all his creative savvy.

It is the fairy re-tale of the classic Peter Pan story.  What makes Neverland so brilliant is that it doesn’t attempt to retell and spit out the same story with a teeny-tiny twist or different color palette like Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Instead the film looks at the story with a whole new scope, depreciating no magic or thematic value, and instead enhancing it and recreating it into a marvelous, heartwarming story worth remembering like the original.

Because ‘Neverland’ isn’t a whacked out Burton re-envision or stripped down Terrance Malick experimen,t which proved his realism could not maintain the same enchantment, it flourishes. Marc Forster takes the best of both.

It is a rare talent he has in doing so too. More famously known for directing dramas like Monster’s Ball, The Kite Runner or Quantum of Solace, Forster’s true gift is seen in his ability to blend reality and surrealism as he does in both Stranger than Fiction and this film.

Like Malick’s The New World, it is a true story, though the true story of Pocahontas is a little different than showing how Peter Pan creator J.M. Barrie came to create the iconic character and story, but nonetheless it works as a plot. The notable playwright (Depp) has a huge flop, which disappoints his fans, his financiers and himself. After failing to get anything off the ground, Barrie ends up in a park playing with his pup and stumbles upon a life changing scene, four small boys and a widowed mother (Winslet) who will give him the inspiration for his next play. As Barrie escapes further and further into the fantasy world with the boys, reality pulls him back harder and harder with his failing marriage and the ailing health of his new family, only leaving place to make the world the world right and fun again, Neverland.

It is beautiful in doing so. The story is as touching and sentimental as it is thoughtful and clever. Forester handles the balance of reality bouncing with perfect delicacy, transitioning from each in a way that surprises and excites. Minimalistic choices in costuming, setting and an enchanting score help the audience escape further into these worlds and learn and play with the character that Depp and Winslet work so well together to create.

With every bit of charm, delight and warming trick, the film cleverly takes on the story to make it into something more, an escape from other dreary cinema of tired fairy tale conventions, becoming its very own Neverland.

Grade: A-

3 thoughts on “ARCHIVE REVIEW: Finding Neverland

  1. Wonderful film indeed! I gain so much respect for Forster because of this and Stranger than Fiction, he’s quickly becoming one of my fave directors. The story is so moving and nice to see Depp looking like himself for a change. Freddie Highmore is not only cute but showed signs of maturity (acting wise) even such a young age. And Winslet of course is always solid in her role as a widow, despondent but never desperate. In a way, I’m glad this didn’t end up in Burton’s hands.

    • I know! Isn’t that odd, Depp rarely ever seems to look like himself, yet he has such an iconic face! Me too Burton would have slaughtered this, I am looking forward to Forster’s work in the future.

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