Sunday, February 17, 2008

Johnny Depp's Films " Finding Neverland " & Tim Burton & John Waters


Odd he should take the part of a pirate in the film when playing with the childre. Shades of things to come as he plays in the Pirates of the Caribbean series.

she went to Neverland
Johnny Depp is a wonder


So I’d like to talk about some films which I enjoyed which starred Johnny Depp. One of these films FINDING NEVERLAND directed by Marc Forster(2004) which I wasn’t sure if it were my cup of tea. But I was wrong about that. I was captivated & enchanted with the story from the first scene to the last. It is the story of J. M. Barrie & how he came to write his most famous play Peter Pan . The film begins with J. M. Barrie(Johnny Depp) who is not a very successful playwright but who keeps plugging away at his chosen profession . He is stuck in a somewhat drab loveless marriage but happens to meet a widow Sylvia Davis (Kate Winslet ) & her four sons & he begins to spend a great deal of time with the family going to the park & playing with them; inventing elaborate scenarios about Pirates & cowboys & Indians etc.& a place he calls Neverland where anything is possible & where children need not grow up. All of this becomes the basis of his play Peter Pan .

The film explores the drama of the story but combines elements of fantasy as we are treated to a wonderful series of the writers flights of imagination which are finally realized in the production of his play Peter Pan. So the film takes on that enchanted quality & yet continues to reveal the reality of the situation J. M. Barrie has entangled himself & others in. He is after all a married man spending most of his free time with another woman & her children so people are bound to talk & speculate that he is having an affair or worse that he might be some sort of pedophile . Barrie is really Peter Pan since he has never really grown up or just doesn’t wish to.

Anyway I just wanted to recommend this film to anyone who may have thought as I did that it would be one of those slow dull period pieces which take a long time to say very little. Besides it is worth it just to see Johnny Depp’s performance . The film is funny & magical & moving.

You’ll laugh & cry & all that jazz. In some ways it reminded me of Tim Burton’s wonderful film Big Fish which also combined real life drama interwoven with fantasy sequences .


Corpse Bride- Remains of the Day


And that brings me to another wondrous film which is Tim Burton’s The Corpse Bride. The film is done with stop-motion animation like his earlier film Nightmare Before Christmas. The film stars Johnny Depp as the main character Victor who is quite unhappy that his parents have arranged for him to be married in order to help them out of their desperate financial situation . But just before the wedding rehearsal he & his intended bride Victoria (Emily Watson) meet & fall in love. Then he goes off to the nearest graveyard(of course) to practice his vows which he says out loud & a female corpse (Helena Bonham -Carter) rises up to accept his hand in marriage but she is dead & he is still among the living.

It is in some ways a typical theme for a romantic comedy or possibly a tragedy of star-crossed lovers & all that . So Victor gets dragged off to the world of the dead & then convinces the corpse bride she should meet his parents & so they return to the world of the living & he tricks her leaving her waiting for him in the woods but as he returns to his intended & tries to explain what has happened the corpse bride appears & drags him back to the land of the dead. Then the real villain shows up claiming to be a Lord & to be very wealthy who will be willing to marry the young bride to be to save her from public ridicule & then it all gets delightfully weird which is quite to my liking.

Of course what is fascinating about the film is that the world of the living is done in black and white and shades of grey while the world of the dead is in vibrant colors. The dead are depicted as more lively and full of life and seem to be enjoying themselves singing and joking and having a grand old time of it.

The world of the living on the other hand is restrained and the people are in a state of constant worry and anxiety. It is a world of rules with little room for individual expression. It is a world of conformity as in Tim Burton's Edward Scissor Hands also staring Johnny Depp.

There are of course musical numbers as there were in Tim Burton’s earlier films “ Nightmare Before Christmas “ & “ Beetlegeuse ” & his more recent “ Charlie & the Chocolate Factory” .



Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Trailer 2005

Another wonderful performance of Johnny Depp can be seen in Tim Burton’s “ Charlie & the Chocolate Factory”. I really enjoyed this newer version of “ Willie Wonka “ . Johnny Depp as Willie Wonka is a quirky, bizarre, & almost malevolent sort of character which is closer to that of the character in the Roald Dahl’s books which are delightful yet a little bit sinister & we feel a bit of unease about Willie Wonka . The visuals & sets are a wonder to see .The factory with its glass elevator & hundreds of Oompa Loompas is awesome.

The story is about Charlie Buckett finding a Golden Ticket in a Wonka Bar which entitles him & Grandpa Joe to meet Willie Wonka & take a tour of his factory & a chance at winning a mysterious grand prize.

The oppressive poverty of Charlie & his family is presented in stark terms. The four grandparents live in a bed which they never leave & they all dine on cabbage soup night after night as they huddle in the cold. The father works at a toothpaste factory but is poorly paid & then gets replaced by a machine. They have very little to eat & so dine on cabbage soup everyday .

Grandpa Joe in this version once worked at Willie Wonka’s candy factory before Willie Wonka shut it down because spies were working in his factory who were selling his secrets to his competitors. Of course he reopens his factory & produces candy again but no one knows who or what his workers are. We get the story of how Wonka found the Oompa loompas & brought them to his factory to work for him. We also get a very strange back-story on Willie Wonka whose father was a dentist who wouldn’t allow Willie Wonka to eat sweets so in an act of rebellion Wonka becomes a candy maker.

I should admit I have enjoyed most of the films in which Johnny Depp has been in from his role of the boyfriend eaten by his bed ,actually it was the demonic Freddy in Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street who swallows him up, to John Waters irreverent “ Cry Baby” to Jim Jarmusch’s outre film “ Dead Man “ to the delightful “ Benny & Joon “ to” What’s Eating Gilbert Grape “ to the intriguing “ Secret Window” & Polanski’s supernatural thriller about Book lovers & Satanists “ The Ninth Gate “ to of course Tim Burton’s surreal & touching “ Edward Scissorhands “ & the marvelous & funny & endearing “Ed Wood “ & his gothic rendition of“ Sleepy Hollow” .

Here’s the connection & a bit of movie trivia - SECRET WINDOW & THE DARK HALF

As for Secret Window in which Johnny Depp plays a writer going through a messy divorce & is suffering from severe depression & acute writer’s block . He is staying in a cottage in the woods by himself . Suddenly he is confronted by some psychotic who claims the writer has plagiarized a story he has written. But there is something not quite right about any of this .But even after the ending is revealed the movie still holds together after repeated viewings like a similar film “ Identity” or Hitchcock’s best films. Such as Rear Window, Psycho etc.

Johnny Depp Secret Window

Yes part of the plot for Secret Window has been done before & it may seem very familiar to viewers & part of the reason is that a similar story was told in George A. Romero’s adaptation of Stephen King’s story The Dark Half.

The tip off for me was that Timothy Hutton in Secret Window plays the boyfriend of Johnny Depp’s characters ex-wife.& Timothy Hutton was in George A. Romero’s supernatural film adaptation of a Stephen King story “ The Dark Half ”which is also about a writer who teaches at a college who writes critically acclaimed books which do not sell & so for years writes under an assumed name popular crime stories about a nasty character named Machine so what ‘s the connection. Well one day a low life character played by Rob Joy shows up & threatens to reveal that the professor also writes these trashy novels so the writer decides to kill off his alter ego & as a publicity stunt even pretends to bury him in the town’s graveyard & has it all photographed for a magazine as he decides to go public .

But of course things begin to take a turn for the worse. Something’s not quite right as friends & associates of the professor are being murdered one after the other & we discover that the professor /writer had epileptic seizures as a child . He was finally operated on to see what's causing the seizures . What they discover is that he was supposed to be a twin and that part of the twin had continued to grow inside his head or whatever and then it gets weird. Back to the present as it seems his alter ego Machine has managed to become part of the real world and confronts the writer for he wants to become human or enter the world of the living.

Anyway it is a neat touch to have Timothy Hutton in this other film version of a Stephen King story which is also about a writer in a crisis situation .

Other Johnny Depp films I would recommend include Benny & Joon which is just a little gem of a movie . It is touching and funny .

a funny scene from Benny and Joon -Johnny Depp being wacky

another funny bit from Benny & Joon
Benny & Joon - Johnny Depp, Spokane Riverfront park
Depp doing his Buster Keaton Schtick

Another film I like which didn't get much exposure was John Waters teen musical Cry Baby also starring Johnny Depp. Maybe now that John Waters' Hairspray is a hit more people will take a look at John Waters other films such as Serial Mom and Pecker .

Another film to watch out for is What is Eating Gilbert Grape which is good but a bit uneven .The other great performance in that film is Leonardo DiCaprio who plays Gilbert's ( Depp) younger brother who is mentally delayed and has a thing about climbing the town's water tower and only Gilbert is able to talk him down. Di Caprio is completley immersed in his part. Meanwhile they have a mother who is in a state of depression since the father hanged himself in the basement. As a result she over eats and weighs three hundred pounds or more .

Roman Polanski's The Ninth Gate Trailer

Anyway that’s all for now ,



Beth said...

Well said.

Anonymous said...