Phoebe in Wonderland: Who Needs Dakota Fanning?

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Can someone explain to me how I never heard about this film? The only reason I watched it is because I stumbled upon it while browsing through NetFlix. I just don’t understand how no one knows about it, because it’s so good.

Phoebe in Wonderland, an independent film released in 2009 and directed by Daniel Barnz follows the story of 9 year old Phoebe (Elle Fanning). You might recognize this actress’s stunning blue eyes from her older sister Dakota Fanning. Phoebe suffers from Tourrette syndrome. Her struggles dealing with her disease in both public and private settings are mirrored with Alice’s experiences in Wonderland, especially once Phoebe is cast as her in a school production of Alice and Wonderland and Phoebe starts getting advice from imaginary Lewis Carroll characters.

This movie really spoke to me. I myself have a disability that interferes with my life, so I can really sympathize with Phoebe’s character who is trying so desperately to be a good girl.

But there is much more to this movie than just tear-jerking moments. A lot of it is also extremely smart and witty. Two examples come to mind. Towards the opening of the film, Phoebe’s teachers are endlessly droning on about rules in class using the model of “Good Girl Jenny.” A teacher asks to the class “What does Good Girl Jenny do?” Phoebe mumbles “She dies a slow and painful death.” And then in probably my favorite scene, when rehearsals start for the play, there is a lot of controversy over a boy getting the part of the Queen of Hearts. Naturally he gets teased. One girl snarls at him “Homo!” He replies “Homo got the part!”

This movie was also so imaginative in many different ways. Not only is the cinematography beautiful, but the story goes in so many creative directions. Surprisingly, Phoebe’s character isn’t just compared to Alice, but also briefly to the Swan from Swan Lake. Which is very inspired. It takes the idea that Phoebe is falling through the rabbit hole much further and makes it somewhat positive: yes, Phoebe’s different, but she’s beautifully different and undergoing a remarkable transformation just like the swan turning into a princess (who later kills herself when her prince falls for the black queen, but anyway…).

Okay, I will stop preaching. But if you like creative, innovative film making, see this movie. I loved it with all my heart, and I gladly give it a 10.

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