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Phoebe in Wonderland
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Phoebe in Wonderland More at IMDbPro »

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39 out of 45 people found the following review useful:

We all need a little magic....

Author: Constance Simpson-Fox from United States
3 July 2008

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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36 out of 48 people found the following review useful:

Terrific movie!

Author: pooh441 from United States
2 May 2008

I just saw this movie in Rochester NY at the High Falls Film Festival. Bill Pullman introduced the movie.

To put it simply, this was a terrific movie! One of the best I have seen in a long time. How it is scoring so low on this site is beyond me. I would not trust the ratings on this site if this movie is scoring so low.

Elle Fanning is amazing in her role - one of the best performances I have ever seen by a child actor. Felicity Huffman gives her normal strong performance. Bill does not have a big part in the movie but plays it very effectively. Patricia Clarkson's performance as the drama teacher is perhaps the 2nd best in the movie behind Elle's. The rest of the cast was stellar as well.This movie holds you in its spell throughout. It's moving, funny at times and captivating in its style. Ignore the ratings - see this movie!

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28 out of 36 people found the following review useful:

Excellent movie

Author: KristenC127 from United States
24 June 2008

I saw this movie at the Provincetown International Film Festival, and teared-up multiple times throughout it. Elle is an amazing little actress, who captures the spirit of Phoebe beautifully, and both Felicity Hoffman and Bill Pullman do an excellent job portraying pained and conflicted parents, trying to understand their young daughter. Daniel does an amazing job here, both as the creator of the story, and as the director, allowing the audience to see through both the eyes of the child and the eyes of the parent. He demonstrates a great deal of creative potential, and I can't wait to see what he does next.

Everyone should see this movie.

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36 out of 53 people found the following review useful:


Author: Ari Herzog from United States
26 April 2008

I walked into the theater during a special screening through Boston's International Film Festival only seeing the trailer and hearing bits and pieces of the plot.

Let me be the first to say on the IMDb that the ensemble acting, plot development, and art direction is simply fantastic! In a word, the film was awesome! While a drama, there were many comedic moments through the talents of Elle Fanning and other characters, and stay tuned to a tear-jerking moment near the end that caused many of us in the theater to sniffle.

I recommend this to everyone once it hits mainstream theaters this fall.

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26 out of 35 people found the following review useful:

Psychological mumbo-jumbo

Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
3 August 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It's really sad that PHOEBE IN WONDERLAND ended the way it did, as it was a terrifically acted film that totally fell apart at the end due to poor writing--very poor and very irresponsible writing. Very irresponsible. Very, very irresponsible. Perhaps my reason for feeling this way is that I practiced as a psychotherapist and taught psychology--so I have a pretty good idea about the subject matter being spoken about in the film. They just got it all so wrong--no matter that the film fills parents minds with all the wrong information on how to deal with a child like Phoebe.

Before I talk about the problematic plot, I want to talk about the acting. It was universally wonderful. In particular, young Elle Fanning was simply brilliant--so much so that you can't believe a child is playing the part. Patricia Clarkson was also wonderful--simply magnificent as Miss Dodger. As for Felicity Huffman and Bill Pullman are concerned, they were also very good--as you'd probably expect from them.

Now here is the story. A young girl is showing many very, very problematic psychiatric symptoms. She shows strong evidence of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder--in fact, it's one of the worst cases I've ever seen. She is so obsessed that she simply cannot function at times--it totally overwhelms her and she's miserable. About the only time she isn't miserable is when she's practicing for her school play, "Alice in Wonderland".

However, her problems go way beyond just OCD. She later has suicidal thoughts, is severely depressed and is beginning to hallucinate...a lot. She actually shows signs of depression, OCD and even schizophrenia. When the parents take her to a psychiatrist, the doctor is very detached. In fact, the way his part is written is pretty wretched--very few psychiatrists are that unskilled and wooden---particularly with kids. After a while, the mother takes her out of therapy because she (the mother) feels threatened by the doctor's diagnosis--which, by the way, we never hear! But, afterwords, the child begins acting out worse and worse and worse--culminating in jumping from the rafters in the theater because her imaginary friends tell her to do so!! Oddly, she wasn't even hurt (this might have killed her or should have at least gotten her hospitalized) and the parents DON'T take her back to therapy or have her hospitalized!!! Now I am NOT a big fan of psychiatric hospitals, but isn't a suicide attempt bad?! Now here is the crazy and irritating part, in the end, the mother announces that Phoebe's problem is all due to Tourette's Syndrome! Now SOME of the child's behaviors could be explained by Tourette's, but not all--certainly not the most serious ones. A suicide attempt, difficulty distinguishing reality and fantasy and severe depression are NOT THE SAME AS TOURETTE'S. Yet, oddly, soon after this, Phoebe is shown thriving now that she realizes her illness and it ends on a ridiculously upbeat note. I kept thinking--"is this all?!".

In summation, Elle Fanning and Patricia Clarkson were absolutely brilliant. Elle, in particular, was simply wonderful and amazing. I predict great things for her. HOWEVER, the writers are skilled in their craft but dangerously ignorant, as they provide simplistic answers to a very emotionally disturbed child. And, they give an interpretation of Tourette's that seems....well,...crazy. Did they do much research or were they doing mushrooms to come up with the inspiration for the ending of the film? Rarely have I seen a film so completely wrong when it comes to mental illness.

For information as to what Tourette's REALLY is, try This is the web site for the National Tourette Syndrome Association.

Too bad the film ended so badly...up until then, I had been hooked.

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29 out of 46 people found the following review useful:

You owe it to yourself to see this film.

Author: sharon_scinta from United States
2 May 2008

Tonight my husband , son and I went to the High Falls Film Festival in Rochester, NY to see this film. Bill Pullman spoke about the film briefly before they started the movie. My husband falls asleep during every film we see. Tonight he did not even get sleepy. We were all amazed at how incredible this movie was. My husband said he was just "Captivated" through the entire show. I was so impressed. My son loved it. The cast is supportive and just "Present" throughout the film. After the show Bill Pullman was kind enough to sign our movie festival poster and pose for photos..even though the stupid flash decided not to work. He was kind, gentle and very humble. This is a film that will stay with you. I know that the three of us left that theater changed. I would have said before that the best comment one could get about a movie is that it made you laugh or cry what ever they were going for. But the truth is that this movie changed us. I don't think I could tell you when I last felt that way. The movie is not hitting you over the head with it's subject matter it's just captivating. It tends to make you feel like you want to be a better person. I don't know if that makes any sense to you or not. It's just fantastic.

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12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

I am a woman with the same problem Phobe had...

Author: rromnaigh-cooper from United States
28 June 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Spoiler Alert- I am a fifty year old woman with OCD and Tourette's. My daughter called and excitedly told me, "Mom! I'm watching a movie about your childhood!" With a few small exceptions, Daniel Barnz managed to capture the personalities of many people in my life. The situations were almost identical. I even wound up going into acting and directing. There is no spot on earth that I find more magical and peaceful than an empty theater and a blank stage.

Although my life did not have a happy Hollywood ending, the vast majority of the movie was spot on. Elle Fanning is proving to be as talented as her sister. This is a wonderful representation of a little girl struggling with behaviors that she doesn't understand, and cannot stop with sheer force of will, and all the people around her are just as confused.

I had to stop the video to read the line about "All characters are fictional...". I think Daniel Barnz was peeking in my window when I was nine.

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17 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Lovely Film!

Author: vendude from Los Angeles
11 March 2009

What a brilliant film. From the art direction, to the writing and directing this was almost flawless. The acting was above-par, and somehow, the best child actress to come along in decades, Dakota Fanning, has been upstaged by her little sister, Elle. I had an awful day, full of suburban bigots and homophobes and was starting to feed into it. I randomly watched this movie and found solace in a nine year old boy overcoming the same stuff I dealt with today. Maybe that sounds pathetic, but it was the quiet reminder I needed today. Thanks to the filmmakers, not only was I thoroughly entertained, you brightened my evening.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:


Author: jotix100 from New York
11 July 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Lichten family has all the potential of being a happy one; yet, nothing seems to be right with them. As the story begins, we realize that Phoebe, the intense older child, is having problems. She is different. On the other hand, her younger sister is an uncomplicated child. The parents, Peter and Hillary, are trying to cope with a daughter that doesn't interact well with her school mates.

The problem with little Phoebe is one of obsession. She if forever counting, as though she must follow a system, or a method for most of the things she engages in. To make matters worse, she spits at any class mate that might contradict, or cross her. The only friend she has is Jamie, a boy who is the butt of his peers' jokes because he is perceived as odd. It is only natural that Phoebe and Jamie understand each other.

Hillary Lichten is worried about her daughter's behavior. An analyst is secured to deal with Phoebe, but the girl does not respond. Hillary is preparing her thesis basing it on Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland". Phoebe identifies with the story in her vivid imagination. When the school decides to stage a version of the book, the children are auditioned for the different parts. The director, Ms. Dodger, is an enigmatic figure; she sees a lot of herself in little Phoebe, who is cast in the principal role. Ms. Dodger believes in letting the children use their imagination, something that gives Phoebe an opportunity to be herself.

Things start to unravel when Phoebe, who has wandered in the theater to the catwalk above the stage, falls from that perch. An investigation by the principal focuses on Ms. Dodger. She is blamed for the accident and she is released from the play. By that time, the parents realize that Phoebe's problem has a name, Tourette's syndrome, and decide on a different approach to help the girl.

Daniel Barnz, the creator of this interesting film, also directed. The film offers an inside look at a sensitive girl's mind in trying to deal with something that no one has taken into consideration, or maybe the adults get blinded into recognizing the cause of Phoebe's reactions. Mr. Barnz film is a magical trip into an unknown territory and works about most of the film, which goes soft on the last minutes of its running time.

Elle Fanning plays Phoebe with such an intelligent approach that it makes one wonder how can this girl could capture the essence of Phoebe in the excellent performance she gives. If we thought her sister, Dakota, was amazing, what can one say about Elle? There are two other incredible actresses in the film: Patricia Clarkson, and Felicity Huffman. Both women bring to life a passionate teacher and a desperate mother with precision and clarity. Little Ian Coletti is also effective as Jamie. Bill Pullman appears as Phoebe's father and Campbell Scott portraits the school principal in all its accuracy.

Daniel Barnz is a new voice in the cinema who shows a promising career.

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8 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Hard to describe, but it was great

Author: siderite from Romania
14 June 2009

Elle Fanning did great acting, considering she was only 10, but also because the role was complex at a level of magnitude to a normal one. She had to play a girl playing a role. How fitting, considering the inherent recursiveness of Lewis Caroll's work, around which the entire story revolves.

The movie can be brutal some times, some times a little annoying, some times even boring, but it is great when you realize that at the time, some character in the movie is feeling the same emotion. It is not an easy movie. The wife, always afraid to get too deep into a movie, completely freaked out, but I enjoyed the movie tremendously.

Bottom line, think Ballet Shoes with Tourette syndrome and a level of self reference worthy of Alice in Wonderland. I can only advise you to prepare for watching the movie, because bathroom and snack breaks or eating popcorn while watching it is not going to cut it.

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