PG for mild thematic elements and brief language
Nov. 24, 2004
Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie,
Radha Mitchell, Dustin Hoffman, Freddie Highmore, Nick Roud,
Joe Prospero, Kate Maberly, Luke Spill, Kelly MacDonald
The play "The Man Who Was Peter
Pan," written by Allen Knee
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By Elliott Ryan
- For many years, Johnny Depp has been known as a talented actor who
starred in many critically acclaimed, character-driven films. Rather than
search out roles that would lead him to mainstream box office stardom, Depp
often opted for roles in smaller films that would challenge his versatile
acting abilities. Since his first starring role in Edward Scissorhands
nearly fifteen years ago, his reputation has been slowly building with each
picture. Depp finally seemed to turn the corner into full-blown Hollywood
superstardom with 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean as the movie
was a huge success at the box office, and Depp received his first Oscar nomination.
Depp’s latest attempt to garner a Best Actor nomination is a somewhat
true story based on the life of J.M. Barrie, author of “Peter Pan.”
The characters are all based on actual people who really lived in London about
a hundred years ago. But as with all Hollywood biopics, much creative license
has been taken with the exact details of the characters’ lives and their
interactions with each other. And of course, most viewers won’t know
Historical accuracy aside, this film is excellently done. Director Marc
Forster, best known for directing the critically acclaimed, though decidedly
family-unfriendly Monster’s Ball, has shown that he can put
together a touching drama relatively safe for members of the whole family.
He was assisted by a great cast. Of course, Depp turns in an intense performance
as Barrie, managing to pull off a subtle mixture of playfulness and sorrow.
The other standout performance goes to 12-year-old Freddie Highmore who played
Peter Llewelyn-Davies who showed unusual depth for a child actor. (Depp and
Highmore will be teaming up again on the big screen next year as Depp plays
Willy Wonka and Highmore will play Charlie Bucket in the upcoming remake Charlie
and the Chocolate Factory.)
movie opens as Barrie, a playwright, attends opening night of his newest play,
which, it turns out, is a disaster. Before long, the audience is introduced
to Barrie’s financier (played by Dustin Hoffman) who is angry at the
dismal failure Barrie’s play turned out to be. It soon becomes obvious
that Barrie’s personal life is in shambles as he shares a bedroom with
his dog while his wife (played by Radha Mitchell) sleeps down the hall.
Things start to look up for Barrie after he meets the Llewelyn-Davies family.
Sylvia Llewelyn-Davies (played by Kate Winslet), the widowed mother of four
boys, and her family inspire Barrie to write his most popular play ever while
he inspires the family to imagine a more hopeful future. His relationship
with the family raises some eyebrows with polite English society. But Barrie
supplies a male role model to boys who need one. In turn, he finds himself
returning to his own childhood imagination.
There are a few negatives to this film. First, Barrie completely neglects
his own marriage to spend time with the Llewelyn-Davies family. His marriage
to a former actress appears to be loveless from the start of the movie. His
relationship with Sylvia Llewelyn-Davies is portrayed as completely platonic.
However, Barrie is guilty of emotional if not physical adultery. Rather than
attempt to save his failing marriage, Barrie is portrayed as being more concerned
with his play dates than with the Llewelyn-Davies family. In addition, while
there are no obscenities, there are a few polite references to sexual behavior.
There is also another concern to consider if taking small children to this
film. The film does have a bit of a gloomy overtone at times as it focuses
a good deal of time on the subject of death in general and children’s
reaction to it in particular. Having recently lost their father, the Llewelyn-Davies
boys are still dealing with their resulting emotions and fears in differing
ways. Of course, many children’s movies have dealt with the death of
a character’s parent in the past. This isn’t necessarily a reason
to stay away from the movie but should be taken into consideration if taking
small children to the theater who may be disturbed by this subject matter.
On the other hand, it may open up an opportunity to talk to children about
death and all that takes place afterwards.
Overall, this is a well-acted movie that may go on to become almost as beloved
as Barrie’s play. It will be interesting to see if Depp’s stardom
will be enough to convince moviegoers to watch this rather than any of the
rest of the glut of movies opening in theaters this holiday season.
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