Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Losing Neverland

Back from Bir, ended up going to McLeodganj as well. Too lazy to blog about it right now, might just put up the article I write instead. [Quick note to people who have never encountered snow before: it’s surprisingly slippery. Makes you fall down in the path of oncoming vehicles on those already-dicey mountain roads. Also usually dirty and mud-ridden, not at all like in the Shammi Kapoor song, which was a studio-manufactured soap-fest anyway. You’re more likely to say Yuck than Yahoo. Snow as you see it in Archie comics and Calvin and Hobbes is but a figment of cartoonists’ imagination.]

Anyway, a quick word about Finding Neverland, which I saw on Sunday at PVR, partly to kill time, partly because I knew I wouldn’t see it for a few years otherwise (not being into the VCD thing). Okay, here’s what I never expected to say about this film: I was disappointed. While it was engrossing enough to keep me awake throughout, the experience left me cold overall. This isn’t easy to admit, because I was so sure I’d love it (maybe high expectations were part of the problem) and I’ve heard only good things about it from all over - international reviews, friends’ recommendations (check Black Muddy River’s take here).

Can’t exactly put my finger on why it didn’t work for me and since this isn’t a formal review, I don’t really have to. But first let’s tick off the good bits. Johnny Depp - excellent, though the standards he’s set are so high that that’s par for the course. Didn’t allow the Scottish accent to become the point of the performance. Production design, very very good as it would need to be for the film to be any kind of success. Supporting cast solid enough, though I couldn’t figure out what Dustin Hoffman was doing in there (unless it was a wink at his performance as Captain Hook in Spielberg’s Hook).

In fact, from a formal “checklist” perspective, it was a fine film in many respects. But somehow it didn’t move me the way it should have. Maybe that’s because the theme of the eccentric author unable to relate to anyone else, sealed off in his own world, has been done so many times before (incidentally, it was done just last year in another Depp film, the underrated Secret Window - a movie that I thought captured very well the madness and solitariness of the writing process). Or maybe it’s because I tend to be underwhelmed by the Peter Pan story and the simplistic way in which it deals with its main theme -- children growing up too fast and the things one loses on the path to adulthood.

Or possibly Finding Neverland was just a little too slow-paced for my liking; trying too hard to prove that it was a movie concerned with weightier issues than circus bears, fairies and flying childen. Also, there were just too many Oscar-targetting moments, not least that semi-surreal climactic scene with the Winslet character walking out into “Neverland”, accompanied by a John Williams-style musical crescendo. It’s probably a combination of all these things.


  1. Welcome back, Jabber...after all the elevation and stuff.

    About FN, I wanted to mention Dustin Hoffman's utterly unnecessary presence in the film, and recall thinking it must be a little reference to Hook. Half expected Robin Williams to swing down from a tree as well....

    Anyway...strange you didn't like it. High expectations can't be the it has to be something else. Don't recall disagreeing on a movie so much in the past, with the possible exception of Usual Suspects.

  2. The thing I liked most about the movie was how they resisted the temptation to turn the relationship between the lead pair physical.
    In a number of other movies - Someone Like You, or The Last Samurai for example, the director assumed if a man and a woman share screen space, it is incumbent on them to kiss, no matter how forced it may be.

  3. Hey nice to see back to blogging.
    Am surprised u dint like finding neverland.

    Actually before I went to see the film, dint know what to expect and was blown away. Yes high expectations cld kill it for u.

    Also too much of stellar work sometimes does not always result in a cumulative good effort.

    My reaction to this film was like my reaction to another terribly underrated film called Finding Forrester. Superb and again had not known what to expect there...

    may be thats why...

  4. sorry for being so late with this post (I just found your blog). I had a similar reaction to FN and I put it down to bad writing. There was something clumsy about the pacing of the film and signs that perhaps it wasn't made with as much affection as a story like this one would need in order to be told well. The second half redeemed this movie in my opinion, inspite of it being a full-steam-ahead tearjerker towards the end.

  5. Hi, you should read the much maligned Stephen King, whose sort story "Secret Window, secret garden" was made into that film. As far as the insane long-distance-runner loneliness of the writing process is concerned, any final year predoc will bear me out-we wrote the book on that one.