Sunday, January 30, 2005

FILM: Finding Neverland

Interesting to have seen Finding Neverland just after having seen La Mala Educacion, since both explore the relationship between life and art, deftly weaving a story-within-a-story into the story of its inspiration. Of course Barrie's fairy tale bears little resemblance to Almodovar's "inner script", and Finding Neverland has a very different texture to it. This film is the charming and very touching story of how the author J.M. Barrie bumped into the four young sons of a young widow in the park, and began a relationship that changed all their lives and inspired him to write "Peter Pan". It tenderly explores children discovering the limits of pretending, and adults re-learning the magic of the imagination. Johnny Depp is brilliant as the soulful author, and is well complimented in excellent performances from all three of the actresses around him: Kate Winslett as the determinedly cheerful widow, Julie Christie as her disapproving mother, and Radha Mitchell as Barrie's neglected wife. Depp's skillful Edwardian gentility and reserved sensitivity is an impressive contrast to the cockiness of Captain Jack Sparrow (and of course an ironic turn from playing a pirate to playing an author writing of pirates). The actors who play the four young boys are all impeccable as well, with some marvelous scenes as each struggles in his own way to accept the death of their father and the illness of their mother. (The only disappointment in the acting department was Dustin Hoffman -- apparently nobody told him that the story was set in London 1903. Note to casting directors: Hoffman needs to stick to contemporary American roles.) The story about the inspiration of Peter Pan has in its own right all the charm, the innocence, and the bittersweetness of its loss as does the fairy tale itself. Bring tissue.

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