Johnny Depp is the ideal person to play the man who imagined a boy who
refused to grow up. For Depp has always had a touch of the Peter Pan
in himself. You often get the feeling in his portrayals that he's a
bad boy who never really wants to settle down (marriage to Parisian
chanteuse Vanessa Paradis aside). His films often are about childhood
fascinations; ghost stories (Sleepy Hollow), tales of lost treasure
(The Pirates of the Caribbean), grisly mysteries (From Hell),
cowboys (Dead Man, Once Upon A Time In Mexico), fanciful magic candy
makers (the upcoming Charlie & the Chocolate Factory) and cockeyed
dreamers (Ed Wood). Even when he plays adults like Hunter S.
Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or the deluded Casanova in
Don Juan DeMarco, the character has a core of innocence that is
difficult to overlook.
Therefore Depp is an ideal choice to play Victorian-era Scottish playwright
J.M. Barrie, who is best remembered as the scribe of the ultimate children's
adventure, Peter Pan.
the film opens, Barrie is at the disastrous opening night of his latest
play. Barrie seems bored with his success and his career, and he needs
a new challenge. In the meantime, his producer Charles Frohman (Dustin
Hoffman) has sunk all of his money into leasing the theater for several
months, so when the play closes immediately Frohman tells Barrie that he
needs a new show rushed.
Barrie finds the new inspiration he needs one day when he meets a widow,
Sylvia Llewellyn Davies (Kate Winslet) and her four sons.
Barrie falls deeply in love with Mrs. Llewellyn Davies, but not in a sexual
way. (In fact, watching this film, you wonder if Barrie felt any
sexual urges at all.) However, in his chaste way, the widow and her
children became the most vital part of his life. They become his
reason for living, and the muse for his greatest work of art.
Barrie is most fascinated by young Peter, a little boy who seems that he has
already grown up. He is more heartbroken by his father's death than
his siblings and he takes everything horribly seriously. Barrie sees
much of himself in Peter, he also felt he needed to act adult when he was
young. Barrie doesn't want Peter to also have to wait like he had
until adulthood to be able to enjoy being a child.
relationship between Barrie and the children is treated with the utmost
respect and gravity; it may be hard in the 21st century to pull off a
story of a man loving children so fully without it being a little bit
creepy. After all, as the film is in the theaters the whole Michael
Jackson scandal is playing out again in courts. Whether he is guilty
or innocent, the whole idea of a grown man playing with children in
Neverland has been tainted.
film treats these thoughts firmly and decisively. When an acquaintance
suggests that people are gossiping about all the time that Barrie is
spending with the children and what they could be doing, the playwright
reacts with shock and revulsion that something so innocent and beautiful
could be looked at in such an ugly, hurtful way.
course, even at this time, the relationship that Barrie had with the family
was an odd one, and not one that was without casualties. Barrie's own
marriage to wife Mary (Radha Mitchell), not exactly on strong footing to
begin with, unravels and finally comes completely apart. Mary can't
understand why her husband prefers to spend all his time with them instead
of coming home. Also worried by the relationship is Sylvia's mother,
Mrs. Emma DuMaurier (Julie Christie), who also wonders what his intentions
are, particularly when her daughter starts showing symptoms of sickness.
However, these doubts miss the point. At one point Peter lashes out at
Barrie, telling him that he is not his father. Of course he isn't, in
fact he probably doesn't want to be, he'd prefer to be their brother.
Yet, in a strange way he does become their father. Through his
friendship with these children, Barrie is finally able to be a child and a
better man. A pretty spectacular play came out of it, too.
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Posted: February 5,