Finding Neverland

Release date: Nov. 12

Distributor: Miramax

Oscar alumni: Julie Christie (actress, “Darling”), Dustin Hoffman (actor, “Kramer vs. Kramer,” “Rain Man”)

True-life period pictures usually have a prestige advantage when it comes to Oscar nominations, but this moving yet unsentimental tale of author J.M. Barrie’s creation of “Peter Pan” has the distinction of being able to appeal to a wide range of Academy voters.

Whereas the Acad’s more august members may respond to the old-fashioned storytelling, younger members with an eye on the rising career of “Monster’s Ball” director Marc Forster and actor Johnny Depp may appreciate the versatility on display.

Depp, in particular, having broken into the nominee camp last year with “Pirates of the Caribbean,” seems poised to re-enter the best actor ranks again with his playful, sensitive take on Barrie.

The movie, scripted by first-timer David Magee, covers a period of time in turn-of-the-20th-century London when playwright Barrie found inspiration for his classic in the lives of a widow, played by Kate Winslet, and her four young boys. Voters may respond to the visually imaginative tale of emotional responsibility and redemption; it’s an ideal year-end release with the potential to break out of specialized markets.

Already, critical support is strong. Variety’s Todd McCarthy called the film “impeccably made and genuinely moving,” citing Depp’s “delicate and inviting” performance. Premiere’s Glenn Kenny, gave “Finding Neverland” wrote the Swiss-raised Forster “proves himself as much at home in lavish period settings as he did in the Deep South of ‘Monster’s Ball,'” and calls Depp and Winslet “immaculate.”

Supporting roles from Oscar winners Dustin Hoffman and Julie Christie add to the movie’s sophistication.

With fewer awards hopefuls to push this time around, even a slimmed-down Miramax is likely to get behind “Neverland” with some robust support.

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