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Finding Neverland

Finding Neverland

What She said:

She

Finding Neverland is one of my sick day movies—I like to snuggle up to it whenever I’m feeling a little under the weather.  I think it’s because it reminds me that it’s ok to be a little imaginative, and that we all need to hold on to a small sliver of our childhoods.  I also think that Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet really shine in their performances (as usual). 

So, before I gripe, let me just give you a little background on the basic premise.  Depp plays famous playwright J.M. Barrie, who you may know wrote Peter Pan.  What you may not know is that the play was conceived based on Barrie’s close relationship with the Llewelyn Davies family, including the children Peter, Michael, Jack, George, and Nico (omitted from the movie).  Anyway, the film follows Barrie as his friendship with the boys and their widowed mother Sylvia (Kate Winslet) blossoms, inspiring him to create the play that saved his career.  As Barrie finds his muse in the Llewelyn Davies family, his own marriage crumbles as a consequence. 

The film brilliantly captures Barrie’s childlike and inquisitive mind, shifting between scenes that represent real-life and those that are a part of his imagination.  Barrie is sort of like a turn-of-the-20th-century Michael Jackson, handling his own issues with growing up by surrounding himself with children.  But the film presents this rather dark theme pretty innocently, playing on a real or perhaps imaginary mutual admiration between Sylvia and Barrie, and a genuine concern and care for her children.  The movie, while a bit depressing at times, is also inspiring.  It makes you wish you were as creative as Barrie, and takes you into his somewhat warped, but notably brilliant, mind.

And now to what sort of haunts me about this movie.  I made this mistake of reading up on the real J.M. Barrie.  He was a bit, er, strange.  Indeed, there are many things about Finding Neverland that are quite true.  He was inspired by the family, and his marriage did crumble as he spent more and more time with the Llewelyn Davies boys.  But his relationship with Sylvia seems a bit over exaggerated.  In fact, initially Barrie just befriended the children in a park when they were out with their nanny.  Can you say creeper?  It wasn’t until months later that he met the parents.  And the movie makes it so that the father is dead before Barrie meets the family, when in actuality he was alive during this time period.  Even creepier, it seems that after Arthur Llewelyn Davies died, Barrie moved in on the family.  And after Sylvia died as well, he declared them to have been secretly engaged and tried to assume guardianship of the children, inserting his name throughout her will.  So yeah, a little unsettling.

But don’t let that ruin it for ya.  It really is a good movie, and I’ll continue to watch it, creepiness or not, whenever I’m out sick.

Thumbs up.

What he said:

He

The name J.M. Barrie may not ring any bells, but I’m guessing Peter Pan does.  The former is the creator of the latter. And if that isn’t enough trivia for ya, here’s another one: Did you know Peter Pan is based on Barrie’s interactions with a group of children he befriend in a park one day?

Yeah, I know exactly what you are thinking. However, one of the children was adamant that nothing fishy was going on. Nevertheless, there is a lot of speculation going on. One thing for sure is, he did alter the mother’s will and sort of force himself on the family after her husband’s death. So who knows if the kid was covering for him or not?

The movie doesn’t really focus on the rumors at all. There is a slight mention of it, but aside from that, it paints a very innocent, caring picture of Barrie (played by Johnny Depp). The film also indicates that Sylvia Davies (Kate Winslet) welcomed his presence in their lives.

It makes no mention of her husband though; who actually died after the family met and became close with Barrie. In the film, he is portrayed as having already passed away. You have to wonder if that was because he and Barrie had a poor relationship? Did he suspect something?

In today’s day and age, we find ourselves inclined to believe the worst, but I remain hopeful that he was simply a genuinely nice guy who simply adored children.

Barrie is portrayed as something of a lonely soul. Yes, he was married, but the couple was distant and never had children. The marriage would eventually fall apart and his relationship with the Llewelyn Davies family was a big reason why. If the movie was anything like reality, his wife did seem like a cold, self-involved snob; but you can’t fault her for being jealous of his dedication to another family, all while ignoring her.

Not only that, but Barrie seemed to have little or no friends. He seemed disinterested in elite social circles. I get that. However, outside of playing with children, very little seemed to make him happy. I find that to be depressing, yet oddly appealing. Who wouldn’t want to relive their childhood over and over?

Depp and Winslet are pros and they brought their A-games. Throw in some fun visual effects and you have a very good movie on your hands.

Verdict: Thumbs up.

This movie review was given the He said, She said seal of approval on September 9, 2011.