Phoebe in Wonderland
By Duane Byrge
PARK CITY, Utah (Hollywood Reporter) - "Phoebe in
Wonderland" reverberates with the frustration of a young girl
who seeks refuge in a fantasy world when her parents and school
fail her. A jarring and sweet depiction of disability, "Phoebe"
should win hearts on the art house circuit and appeal to female
and family audiences on cable.
Angelic and talented Phoebe (Elle Fanning) has blessings
and challenges: She is obsessively compulsive and blurts out
inappropriate things. Her protective mother won't accept
professional advice -- obsessive control disorder, Tourette's.
Girls will be girls, she rationalizes. Yes, Phoebe's behavior
confounds teachers and tears apart her family.
Writer-director Daniel Barnz examines the disorienting and
dispiriting world that kids often face: officious teachers,
cruel classmates, confused adults. The mesmerizing performance
of Fanning as the gifted and troubled young Phoebe sparks the
picture. Patricia Clarkson as Phoebe's empathetic and inspiring
drama teacher evinces the sympathetic fiber that only a person
who also has suffered for being different can convey.
As the beleaguered and well-intentioned mother, Felicity
Huffman crystallizes the frustrations and self-doubt of a
loving mother, while Bill Pullman captures a father's feeling
Under Barnz's guiding directorial hand, technical
contributions are masterful. Christophe Beck's score is aptly
whimsical and fearsome, while Bobby Bukowski's smart visual
compositions are similarly succinct.
Hillary Lichten: Felicity Huffman
Miss Dodger: Patricia Clarkson
Phoebe Lichten: Elle Fanning
Peter Lichten: Bill Pullman
Principal Davis: Campbell Scott
Director-screenwriter: Daniel Barnz; Producers: Lynette
Howell, Ben Barnz; Executive producers: Doug Dey, Chris
Finazzo; Director of photography: Bobby Bukowski; Production
designer: Therese DePrez; Editor: Robert Hoffman; Music: