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
I remember childhood as a time of striving to fit in, or despair at not fitting in, or being in limbo between the two. Sometimes a book, like Alice in Wonderland, captured my imagination, and, for a while, it didn't matter that I was different.
This movie accompanies us on a journey of discovery; showing us the bad places, the hurtful places, the thoughtless places, and the beautiful, magical, touching places that make up a life's geography. The impeccable Patricia Clarkson gently pulls our grimy, jammed-in- hands out of our pocket hiding places and shows us the beautiful truth at the center of our uniqueness.... that is, if we can identify with delightful, difficult Phoebe.
A wonderful ensemble cast of actors, notably diverse in age, experience and ethnicity, tell the story of this "misfit child" and the way such a personality churns up the water within her family. There is no escape for her loving, conflicted, and anguished mother, so beautifully portrayed by Felicity Huffman in what I believe to be her best performance to date. In large part, she and Phoebe play hide and seek throughout the journey, each fearing to hurt the other, each loving the other too much and understanding too little the myths and mysteries each must negotiate.
Bill Pullman, (does he get tired of the Everyman reference I wonder?), no less concerned about the condition of his daughter(s), or his wife, sensitively struggles to find his way to support and care for his family. It is my hope that his performance will inform fathers everywhere: be involved with your children, know them, insist on your important role and, resist letting mothers be the only experts.
Whew! I'm telling you, this movie got me thinking!
If a writer writes words on a page to move people, to touch their emotions...Danial Barnz did a wonderful job of work with me and the other people in the audience at the L.A. Film Festival. I wasn't the only one gasping at the intricate and amazing sets, laughing at the ironies and juxtapositions, or sniffling (it was a 5 tissue movie for me!) when the charming Elle Fanning bravely faced her obstacles and challenges as she wound her way through her daily rabbit hole in the crucible of grade school.
We all remember that one, but here with a principal-- played by Campbell Scott--almost sinister in his devotion to decorum and conformity. Manipulative and slightly malevolent, he sees only the problems and none of the gifts of the children in his care.
I have had "Phoebe flashbacks" daily since seeing this movie. Maybe the wonderful, fanciful costumes, or the austere demeanor and dress of Miss Dodger, or the pain on a child's face when a grown-up says something innocuous that isn't to a child, or the ballet that brings both joy and anxiety to a sensitive little girl, Dad and Mom struggling separately to achieve unity and discovering that no one can do it alone. To me, these are rich gifts and the reason I so love the movies.
It might be called a little movie, but I don't think so. It is a huge and mythic movie dressed up in a small, soft rabbit costume which you will love.
A personal thank you to everyone concerned with making this touching, big, little movie. Work well done! And, I hope it goes into wide distribution so that I can take my own family and friends on this charming, poignant journey.
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