Sunday, August 9, 2009

Phoebe in Wonderland: Review

If you think of film as working at revealing the human experience and as there are several billion people on earth, there should be several billion different experiences. Yet, the genius of film is that every film will reach more people because of shared experiences. So, when I see a film that brings to life a new experience and in a new way, I feel the need to applaud the film (even if I didn't like it, which I did very much in this case) and when I can relate to that new experience, though it's one I've never had myself, I have to praise the film to whomever will listen. Phoebe in Wonderland stars Felicity Huffman and Bill Pullman as academic parents raising two daughters, the elder played remarkably well (and refreshingly unlike her sister) by Elle Fanning (Phoebe). When Phoebe auditions for the school play, "Alice in Wonderland" it seems like the best opportunity to escape many of her bullying classmates. The theater teacher, Patricia Clarkson, inhabits the story and wants the children acting in it to do the same. When each child arrives for his audition she says, "no room, no room, move down, move down" to see what the child will respond with. Most of them don't get it, but a brilliant little boy who arrives to audition for the White Queen asks for some tea, and she's transformed. This sort of look at life embodies each of the characters - how do they relate to the world, how do they fit into it, and what do they bring to it. Our main character Phoebe suffers from all kinds of behavioral problems that baffle her parents, particularly her mom, Felicity Huffman, who blames herself for her daughter's problems and by doing so lengthens the time until she's properly understood. It's a magical story without actually being a fairy tale, or having a particularly happy ending. I really liked it and won't reveal all the twist the movie goes through. 4 of 5 lambs/stars. PS - It's available on Roku or Netflix streaming right now!

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