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  • Phoebe in Wonderland
    • Phoebe in Wonderland
    • Runtime:96 min
    • Release Date:2017-01-16 08:01:00
    • Director: Daniel Barnz
    • Genres: Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Family, Fantasy
    • Studio:
MOVIE REVIEW:Phoebe in Wonderland


*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I have not yet watched the entire film, and I suspect that I won't.
After about twenty minutes I was already bored, irritated, and angry.
Angry? Mainly because this film is so much of a sop to "childhood"…
especially when it is an upper-middle class variety (as if Hollywood
couldn't interest itself in any thing less except once a decade….)

The opening is pretty much stolen from To Kill A Mockingbird,
exhibiting the "magical" toys of childhood… except that in
Mockingbird the toys had more significance to the plot and the music
was haunting and set a perfect mood for the story. Here, all it is is
filler… it's supposed to be "magical" (yes, that word again… ho

Then we have Elle Fanning… who the camera loves and unfortunately the
director does too… which is OK if you aren't being asked to play
every cliché in the book. The ideas are telescoped, the "suspense" is
unwarranted because we KNOW (SPOILER? Ya gotta be kidding…) that
Phoebe will get the part (after all look at the title) and even
something like walking in front of the sign-up list, wondering whether
or not to do it, is drawn out, like many other sequences, more than it
needs to be.

And Patricia Clarkson, in the first twenty minutes, seems to playing
everything on one note. Miss Zen for the the decade. One child asks
"Are you asleep?"… She may not be, but she certainly is putting me in

The only surprise to me so far is that it was written by a guy… it
seems to be so female-oriented and chick-flick-ish that it really IS a
surprise that the director/writer is a guy; hmmm maybe he's gay? That
might explain it…and a few other things in the film which I won't
give away. (Ha! Just looked him up and I was bang on… not that his
being gay is a problem in any way – I am too – but it explains a few
things immediately.)

I guess what irritates the most is that it is playing too much to the
PC crowd…he is almost certainly going to hit on every acceptable
liberal theme. Again, this isn't a problem in itself – hell, I'm on the
left too – but it is too formulaic. Where's the edge? Imagine if the
script had been written by someone with real imagination like John
Cameron Mitchell (of Shortbus).

Need I go on? No, because the people who will like this film are
exactly the ones it was made for. It isn't challenging us. At least not
for the first 25 minutes. I guess I'll go back and see if it makes me
eat my words, but I doubt that I'll need Kleenex, except to perhaps
wipe up after I've up-chucked.


I have to start off by saying that Elle Fanning is Incredible!! OK. Now
that the facts have been stated… Throughout the entire film we feel
along with Phoebe's suspicions that she is in fact different from other
children. Something seems off and a bit odd for a child. OCD is rather
obvious but there's something more. We struggle along with her parents
in trying to discover what really is going on with our adorable

The camera work was impressive. In one scene in particular, as the
parents are fighting, phoebe and her sister are above them far off
watching. The camera shows them in between the parents while they are
fighting. We know their marital troubles involve the children and their
priorities differ. They never seem to see eye to eye when it comes to
their children, especially Phoebe.

Besides Phoebe's family issues, I appreciated that we witness the
discrimination Phoebe and her best friend, Jamie go through on a daily
basis at school. Children attacking other children verbally, at times
physically, and even out casting them is a real issue and I'm glad they
made this movie as realistic as possible. Children go through a lot too
and they really let us see that.

All of the emotion was well portrayed through the actors. Realistically
portrayed, the struggles of a family especially if the family has a
child with special needs. The strain on parents and on the sibling was
made quite obvious and rang true to reality.

Among the incredible acting, plot, script, and camera work, the music
was also impressive. It really backed up each and every moment with the
desired feeling of the scene. It successfully strengthened the emotion
in the scene.

Patricia Clarkson and felicity Hoffman are just jaw dropping. They are
well-respected actresses for a reason and Phoebe in Wonderland proves

With an absolutely brilliant cast, Phoebe in Wonderland was nothing
short of phenomenal. It is a sweet, inspiring drama. Complete with
humor, a bit of mystery, and family dramas; Phoebe in Wonderland
accomplished the ever sought after, 'whole package' film. It was a new
twist on an old tale. It was risky, but quite successful.


"The books are a kind of Rorschach test, a screen onto which people
project their own ideas" -Jenny Wolf, author of The Mystery of Lewis
Carroll- It's no secret that I love the Alice books by Lewis Carrol -
all two of them – and I agree with Jenny Wolf's assertion. These books
are so loved because it's different for every reader. It's why there
are so many movies, cartoons, series and stage versions (soon my own)
of these books. Everyone has their favorite version or versions. In
other words: Your interpretation says more about who you are rather
than what the books are. For that fact alone is probably why I enjoyed
Phoebe in Wonderland as much as I did. Phoebe – played by Elle Fanning
(Dakota's little sister) – uses Wonderland as a device to explain what
she doesn't understand in the world she inhabits. Then she really gets
to escape to Wonderland when she gets cast as the lead in her school's
production of Alice in Wonderland along with her male friend Jamie (Ian
Coletti) who gets cast as The Queen of Hearts. What really drives this
story home though is not Phoebe's tourettes or even when Jamie is
called a fag (the movie was a GLAAD award nominee), but in the way that
adults just don't understand what it's like to be a child.

Patricia Clarkson (goddess) plays the drama teacher Miss Dodger (get
it?) who seems to be the only one in the faculty that really knows how
to nurture these children. The best scenes in the movie are the
audition and rehearsal scenes for school play Alice in Wonderland, and
I'm not just saying that because I can "borrow" their stage ideas. Miss
Dodger takes these kids seriously and expects them to take her
seriously and that's what children really need. Someone not
condescending and someone who commands authority. She owns every scene
she is in. The movie also has Bill Pullman and Felicity Huffman as
Phoebe's parents. Felicity Huffman does what she does best, play the
concerned mother, and Bill Pullman is pretty much Bill Pullman. Elle
Fanning as Phoebe was phenomenal. People are going to call her a
younger version of Dakota Fanning – and she is for obvious reasons -
but she also has an acting style that is purely her own. She also gets
to show off her singing voice in one of the cutest recreations of
Looking Glass World's infamous "Welcome Queen Alice" scene. Directed by
Daniel Barnz – who's directing the upcoming Beastly, a modern take on
Beauty and the Beast with Mary Kate Olsen and Neil Patrick Harris among
other famous faces – Phoebe in Wonderland is what it is: It's a movie
about a little girl dealing with tourettes. The added layer of
Wonderland is just a device and it never takes over the movie
completely. It's complementary as opposed to distracting and really
does help us to almost fully understand what's going on in this little
girl's head as she deals with the frustration and confusion of her
world. A world that neither she or the people around her can fully
understand. I enjoyed this movie fully and plan to watch it again and
again. It's beautifully filmed and very well acted, especially Elle
Fanning and Patricia Clarkson. It's almost sad that it's theatrical
release was limited. So go get it on DVD or Blu Ray or The Queen will
have your head.

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