At a certain part in your life. Probably when too much of it has gone by. You will open your eyes and see yourself for who you are. Especially for everything that made you so different from all the awful normals. And you will say to yourself, “But I am this person.” And in that statement, that correction, there will be a kind of love. – Miss Dodger, Phoebe in Wonderland
This is what I was feeling as I watched Elle Fanning’s first starring role in Phoebe in Wonderland. While always relegated to being Dakota’s little sister, I always knew there was something special in her, even as she played a younger version of her sister in I Am Sam and she even stole scenes in Babel, as Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt’s young daughter.
Elle comes into her own as Phoebe, an odd little girl who just can’t seem to fit into the mold that the school and her family want her to be in. Apart from being “different”, she seems to be suffering from either OCD or Tourette’s which causes her to unintentionally hurt herself and break rules and say things she shouldn’t.
It seems to be a Hallmark Disease-of-the-Week movie, but the wonderful performances of the actors in the movie, Elle, Felicity Huffman as her conflicted mother, Bill Pullman as her seemingly distant father, even her younger sister (played by that uber cute younger sister in Bridge to Terabithia) and the luminous Patricia Clarkson as her theater teacher,saves this movie from becoming just another tearjerker.
But boy, were my tears jerked. It’s a good thing I was in my room alone, or else my brother would’ve laughed at me, crying into my laptop once again. What I loved most about this movie, was the metaphor of Alice in Wonderland, which happened to be the play that brought Phoebe out of her shell, (hence the title, duh). I was actually scared that Phoebe would turn out to be schizophrenic because she kept seeing and speaking to Wonderland characters like The Red Queen and Humpty Dumpty. But I guess, when you are a young girl and can’t understand and control what’s happening to you, you tend to escape into a world where everything seems wondrous and perfect.
There’s this scene that got me sobbing like a baby. Phoebe inexplicably jumped from the stage rafters, and afterwards, she asks her mother “Am I supposed to feel hope?”. And that is just an utterly sad question coming from a 9 year old. And I may be 21 years older than her, but I find myself asking that same question, given recent events in my life. But that is another blog entry…
Even though the ending was abit too Hallmark movie-ish, this is still a beautiful movie where no one over acted, where there was no big tragedy but it was still devastating enough, where you can find a deeper meaning to Alice in Wonderland, where you find yourself asking why do we still look differently at people who are not of our mold and why do we even want to put them into neat little boxes and categories when we should be celebrating how beautiful it is to be different from each other?
I recommend watching this movie, re-reading Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and then waiting with bated breath Tim Burton’s take (see my previous post) on this wonderful classic.