Wonderland Respun

Phoebe in Wonder land staring Elle Fanning, was written and directed by Daniel Barnz. The movie was released March 2009. (Photo courtesy of www.entertainmentwallpaper.com)
Phoebe in Wonder land staring Elle Fanning, was written and directed by Daniel Barnz. The movie was released March 2009. (Photo courtesy of www.entertainmentwallpaper.com)

Oftentimes, movies with classic novels at their core are simply modern adaptations; however, “Phoebe in Wonderland” is quite different from an adaptation. Elle Fanning and Felicity Huffman give an extra dose of drama to Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland.  
Elle Fanning, the younger sister of Dakota Fanning, plays 10-year-old Phoebe Lichten, who suffers to find solace in our modern world, all while playing Alice in her school’s rendition of Alice in Wonderland. 
Phoebe’s mother, Hilary, played by Felicity Huffman, shows classic traits  found in overachieving mothers – she is writing her dissertation on Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and blames herself for daughters suffering. The feeling overexertion and stress that Hilary experiences is very familiar to any person, from a mother to a high school student.  

The title of the movie translates to that Phoebe’s world has become a sort of wonderland due to her mounting Tourette’s Syndrome  symptoms. Tourettes is an neurological disorder that only surfaces when a person is about nine or ten, about the same age as Phoebe. The symptoms range from twitching and shouting inappropriate things. Phoebe spits at other children in two instants in the movie. While trick-or-treating Pheobe calls a woman giving her candy fat.
She also has OCD tendencies, like counting patterns and washing her hands over and over. Phoebe’s fantasy of wonderland is connected to the symptoms of her disorder and “is Phoebe just wanting to be somewhere else, ” according to her mother.  
Phoebe obviously admires her collegiate and intelligent parents and disapproves of her frivolous and  vapid classmates. She connects with a boy in her class named Jeremy because they are both seemingly outcasts. He gets teased for playing the Queen of Hearts in the play and Phoebe is blamed for her behavior. The pair makes a great friendship and is a nice addition of relationship besides Phoebe and her mother.      
Aside from the story, the cinematography of the movie is completely beautiful in a timid way. Phoebe’s clothing is full of subtle patterns and simple skirts, but also fitting to a young girl with an active imagination.
Each scene is a jarring contrast from the next, some light to dark, others cluttered rooms to pristine playground. One scene will be Phoebe and her family eating dinner with dark shadows and a full table, and it will jump Phoebe on stage, practicing the part of Alice, in bright lights.  Additionally, the lighting in the movie noticeably moves from lighter, simpler shades in the beginning to darker colors toward the end of the movie. 
 Seeing a younger sibling of an already accomplished teen actor was a nice chang; Fanning played Phoebe perfectly and was very believable as an imaginative child with Tourettes. I especially loved seeing Huffman outside of Wisteria Lane. Huffman and Fanning had great chemistry as mother and daughter, especially evident when Phoebe screams out to mother in the middle of the night and through crying said that “I want you to know why I do these things I do.” Those things being her spontaneous out busts and OCD like tendencies.  
 After talking to the red queen, a sort of figment of her imagination that comes from Alice in Wonderland, Phoebe asks her mother “Have you ever felt like you’re running very fast, just to stay in the same place?” I found this theme completely relates to high school; I often feel like I’m not moving forward, just stuck waiting for weekends, waiting for 2:50 to come. And when the weekends end or I finally get to bed, I am in the same place I was last week. 
In the movie, Hilary feels really shaken by her daughters comment because she has been working on her book and just feels like she isn’t getting anywhere with it, but also because in her eyes a child shouldn’t be thinking like that.   
In the end, the story is really what makes this movie special. It’s different from any drama out there today for its ability to make the viewer actually care and carries a timeless feel. Possibly a feeling of wonderland.