September 8, 2009

Justify My Netflix: Finding Neverland

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

Finding Neverland

Today's movie: Finding Neverland, 2004 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because this was one of those big Oscar-bait pictures when it first came out (which I'm a sucker for), starring two actors I really admire (Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet), lushly filmed in a historical setting I'm a bit obsessed with (London at the end of the Victorian Age), telling a fictionalized account of the real life of author and playwright J.M. Barrie, and how it is that he might've come up with the elements behind his most famous story, Peter Pan, after becoming good friends with a neighbor's family full of small boys.

The reality: So can I confess this without too much embarrassment? This movie made me cry like a little f-cking girl; and despite how it may seem here sometimes, I happen to occasionally like emotionally manipulative Oscar-bait movies that make me cry like a little girl, especially when they're combined with great acting, strong writing, and high production values. And Finding Neverland has all of these things, sugary-sweet for sure but also surprisingly melancholy, a film that plays with your heartstrings like a master guitarist plucking out "Classical Gas," but at least is smart and wryly funny while doing so. It's one of those movies that can be simultaneously enjoyed by bitter artists and their LOLcat-loving mothers at the same time; and there's not a lot of movies out there like that, frankly, a big part of why it's getting a recommendation from me today. It'll definitely make you roll your eyes at points, that's for sure; but like I said, I occasionally don't mind movies that do such a thing, with this being one of the rare cases where I was actually charmed by the manipulation instead of turned off by it.

Strangest piece of trivia: Early in the movie, there's a scene where Dustin Hoffman (playing the producer of Barrie's plays) walks down the street with his hand in his jacket like Napoleon, a strange detail that calls attention to itself; it turns out that Hoffman had only the day before cut off the tip of his finger during an on-set accident, and needed to not only hide the bandages but also keep his finger elevated above his heart at the time.

Worth your time? Yes

P.S. By the way, if you don't want the treacly illusion of this do-gooder screenplay ruined, don't even think of reading up on Barrie's real life, and the ways it disappointingly differs from the events shown in this movie. For example, Barrie's last play before Peter Pan was actually a big hit, not a flop like is shown in the film; Barrie was actually the one who filed for divorce from his wife, because of her having an affair behind his back, not the other way around; the father of the boys Barrie befriends was actually alive and in good health when Peter Pan was first produced, and didn't actually die until years afterwards; Barrie apparently had an affair with the boys' mother, unlike the platonic friendship they have in the film (or at least, after she died Barrie claimed that they had been engaged to be married); and the persnickety grandmother character didn't even exist in real life, with most of her lines and attitudes instead coming from the family's real-life maid (who also doesn't exist in the movie version). Yeah, "Inspired By a True Story" indeed!

Filed by Jason Pettus at 12:56 PM, September 8, 2009. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |