Editor’s Note: We’re counting down the best films of the 2000s decade from 250 all the way to 1. A new film will be added every few days for your reading pleasure. Please be sure to check this blog for other entries. Thanks – MGMT
2004 – Directed by Marc Forster; Written by: David Magee; Starring: Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, Radha Mitchell, Dustin Hoffman, Kelly MacDonald, and Freddy Highmore
Full disclosure here: I happen to think that “Peter Pan” is simply the best story ever told, and my favorite place on Earth is the Pan statute in London’s Hyde Park across from J.M. Barrie’s old house. If you’ve seen today’s film, you know where I’m going with this.
Depp stars as the real-life author at the turn of the twentieth century. After a play of Barrie’s flops dreadfully, he is need of some inspiration. He doesn’t have to look far, right next door lives a house full of children and their widowed mother. Over a course of month’s Barrie becomes somewhat of a foster parent to the children, spending long days in Hyde Park playing imaginative games. Over time, these games turn to stories, and Barrie creates one of the most indelible characters of all time in Peter Pan, the boy who doesn’t want to grow up.
The drama comes from three sources – the meddling high society that can’t explain away Barrie’s infatuation with the family, a growing sickness in the mother that can’t be avoided, and Barrie’s own wife who becomes increasingly more jealous of Barrie’s “misspent” time. Through his wild imagination, we begin to see what the true inspiration behind the original play is. Forster directs the film with a sense of wonder and magic (because Barrie did the same with his story), at one point, these lines become so blurred the viewer isn’t really sure what is real and what is imagined. But then again, I suppose that’s the point.
Depp gives perhaps his most restrained and nuanced performance of his career (a role for which he was nominated for), and the Academy also saw fit to give the movie a Best Picture nomination as well. Not quite a family film, not quite a biopic – “Finding Neverland” is the rarest of things, a unique vision peppered generously with a bit of magic, too.
The film doesn’t necessarily advance the medium by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s time well spent and a good way to learn more about Barrie and a boy named Pan. Check it out!
Overall grade: B+
Movie #225 tease: inebriated fisticuffs & infatuation
227) American Gangster
228) Slumdog Millionaire
230) Bad Santa
232) The Wackness
233) Talk to Me
235) Inside Man
236) Hot Rod
237) Miami Vice
238) Pirate Radio
239) School of Rock
240) Little Miss Sunshine
242) Red Eye
243) The Good Girl
244) Wet Hot American Summer
246) My Blueberry Nights
249) The Italian Job
250) Laurel Canyon
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