The fantastical tale of a little girl who won't - or can't - follow the rules. Confounded by her clashes with the rule-obsessed world around her, Phoebe seeks enlightenment from her unconventional drama teacher, as her brilliant but anguished mother begins to worry for her daughter's health. Written by
Back in 1998, Kate Beckinsale played the title character in a modern adaptation of Lewis Carroll's "Alice Through the Looking Glass". The adult Beckinsale went into the reverse world behind the looking glass in a confusingly marketed children's film that many potential viewers believed was for mature audiences.
Ten years later "Phoebe In Wonderland" provides another visit to the looking glass world. The title character is played by a child (Elle Fanning) and thanks to more confusing marketing, this time potential viewers think that it is a children's movie. I've even seen the DVD of this PG-13 film proudly on display in the children's sections of video rental stores.
It's not a children's film although there are sequences in the film that would appeal to many children. It is a strange blend of "Girl, Interrupted" and Jena Malone's 1997 film "Hope"; with the same thematic structure as "The Dust Factory". Writer/Director Daniel Barnz has crafted a puzzling little film that seems to have a lot to say but doesn't do a very clear job of saying it. I suspect that much of the story is autobiographical. The story is told from the point of view of the title character and Barnz does an excellent job of acting for the camera direction with all members of his film's strong cast. Which means that the confusion seems to lie not in the execution but in the construction. Branz apparently intends the story to be more allegorical than real; with general themes about freedom, individualism, conformity, and expectations. The only clear message is the importance of having the courage to live life to the fullest, to not let fear or the need for acceptance keep you from letting go of security and "jumping" (like Alice jumping down the rabbit hole although technically that is a different story).
The Tourett's Syndrome stuff is inserted as a literary device. Everyone spends much of their interaction time suppressing the impulse to "spit" out a few assorted truths and unkind comments. These things are better left unsaid and the task of leaving them unsaid is more difficult for those who tend to resist conformity and have the least need for the approval of others.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
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