Note: This post contains a spoiler of the 2003 movie.
In my review of P.J. Hogan’s film of Peter Pan, I express great pleasure at the added character of Aunt Millicent. She’s a revision, actually, of the maid Liza in the original play and the novel. I’ve already explained the brilliance of Hogan’s tweak in the post, see there for more.
There's another reason that Aunt Millicent is terrific.
She’s the solution to something Barrie had never been able to work out.
Anyone heard of the “Beautiful Mothers Scene" that used to be in the play? [Barrie constantly made changes up to and including opening night and beyond, as well as each year.] I know Andrea Jones (author of Hook & Jill) has… but for those of you who haven’t: It takes place when the Darlings return and the Lost Boys come with them. What happens now, of course, is that the Darlings adopt the rest of the boys. What Barrie initially tried to do is match up a “new” mother for each boy. I put “new” in quotes because it varied. In some incarnations of this scene, a group of lovely young ladies just shows up on a gut level, aching and yearning to be a mother and sensing boys who need a home. In another, Wendy has Peter Pan go out and search for each of the boys’ true mothers, bring them to the Nursery to claim them and return them home. If I recall right, in another there’s a sort of ad placed. But as charming and heart-warming as this idea (in any form) is, it just doesn’t blend in quite right -- and Barrie knew it, for he settled on the Darling adoption.
That’s where Aunt Millicent comes in…
Part of her reason for being there had been to take Wendy away from the Nursery, to have her under wing, to guide and mold her into adulthood. Obviously, it wouldn’t just have been for Wendy’s benefit (or detriment, depending on how one views it) but for Millicent’s as well. In subtext, she wanted to care for a child.
Cut now to the arrival of the Darlings with the Lost Boys. All of the boys are there - except one. Millicent looks on with tears of joy at the happy reunion. Again, her subtext shows through. Enter Slightly. He’d says he went to the wrong door, and so, arrived late…and now he didn’t have a mother. In an interesting and delightful use of fairy magic, Tinker Bell whispers and/or blows a kiss of sorts to Millicent. “Is your name…Slightly?” she asks. Slightly is amazed, of course. Millicent insists that she is his mother in a Barriesque moment.
Thus, this fascinating new character of Hogan’s also fulfills the Barrie-generated notion of a mother awaiting a boy with open arms, or finding a long lost child.
Hooray for Aunt Millicent. Brava, Lynn Redgrave for a magnificent performance.
Bravo to Hogan for working her in so seamlessly.