Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Phoebe in Wonderland DVD

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Headline: DVD Features Elle Fanning as Mentally-Troubled Child

At first blush, little Phoebe Lichten (Elle Fanning) looks like your normal nine year-old. Sure, the precocious fourth grader tends to talk out of turn in class, but that disruptive behavior might easily be deemed as natural for any curious child with a creative mind. Phoebe’s case proves to be a little more complicated than just nervous energy when her acting out escalates to spitting on a classmate. This incident lands her in hot water with the principal (Campbell Scott) who informs her parents (Bill Pullman and Felicity Hoffman) of the infraction.
However, their well-meaning intervention involves sending their daughter to counseling with a lame shrink (Peter Gerety) who snap-diagnoses Tourette’s Syndrome as the source of the outburst, even though that doesn’t really explain all of her symptoms. Tragically, Mrs. Lichten is too busy between writing a book about Alice in Wonderland to give Phoebe the attention she needs.
As fate would have it, a guardian angel appears in the person of a drama teacher (Patricia Clarkson) whose protective instincts kick-in when she senses that Phoebe’s a kid in crisis. Sympathetic Miss Dodger decides to cast her in the title role of the next school production which just happens to be Alice in Wonderland.
Unfortunately, Dodger’s openly encouraging Phoebe’s flights of fancy during rehearsals only seems to accelerate the deterioration of the girl’s mental state. Soon, we find the child further and further divorced from reality, and engaging in conversations with the White Rabbit, the King of Hearts and other characters from the Lewis Carroll classic.
So unfolds Phoebe in Wonderland, a serious examination of mental illness which doesn’t offer any pat answers or serve up a syrupy sendoff. The picture is worthwhile for the powerful performance of Elle Fanning alone, an emerging star steadily rising out of her sister Dakota’s shadow. Elle proves to be unusually adept here at holding you in her thrall while conveying both the innocence and the angst of a desperate adolescent trapped inside of a brain gradually coming apart at the seams.
It’s ‘Fanning’tastic!

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for mature themes and brief profanity.
Running time: 100 minutes
Studio: Image Entertainment

No comments: