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Movie Takes

Finding Neverland

By 11.16.04

One problem with the otherwise excellent Finding Neverland is its title. Perhaps its Swiss director, Marc Forster, didn’t realize that many Americans would think the movie had something to do with Michael Jackson and so miss what is in fact a touching little biographical essay about the author of Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie, marvelously played by Johnny Depp, and his relationship with the Llewelyn-Davies family — in particular a boy named Peter (Freddy Highmore). But in a way it does have to do with Michael Jackson too. For it is important that Neverland mean Never. It is by definition a place removed from reality and the film-makers, including David Magee who adapted a play by Allan Knee, sometimes show signs of repeating Mr Jackson’s mistake in trying to make it really exist. Most disastrously, after setting up an enormously moving conclusion, they put into Mr Depp’s mouth the merely facile consolation to a child on the death of a beloved parent that the charms of Neverland are always there to escape to, that you can go there in "imagination" and "any time you want."