“I don’t wanna do those things, or say those things … but I have to. Except here. Everywhere else, I feel ugly.”
“I’m gonna tell you something which might not make any sense, but I should say it, so that one day you might remember it and maybe it will make you feel better. At a certain point 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.”
“I’m so scared.”
“We all are.”
lol this review might just end up being all quotes so I think I better just accept that and get on with it …
“I can see myself wrecking and ruining, but I can’t stop.”
There was a point almost 5 minutes into this that I suddenly realised how much I wanted, no, needed to love this movie, and how shattered I’d be if it let me down at all. I don’t know if it was the obvious Alice in Wonderland connection that makes me want to love any related movie so; or the cast list in the opening credits that just makes it progressively more tantalising; maybe just the fact that we’re in mid-October and I’d yet to see a movie that really touched me personally (the “Slipping Through My Fingers” scene in Mamma Mia notwithstanding) and this seemed to so perfectly fit the bill despite my really not knowing anything about it beyond the title and the basic set-up of Elle Fanning’s character Phoebe wanting to be Alice in the school play.
“If I had a dress like that I’d never take it off.”
“You’d have to … to wash it.”
“No … cos maybe if I wore it long enough, I’d become that person.”
“You’d have to pick your part carefully.”
“Oh … I would.”
The first surprise is Patricia Clarkson’s character – I loved Carol Kane’s quirky drama teacher in Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen – I love all such characters, great teachers going against the grain and waking young minds is one of the great movie things to me – but this is something else. If you don’t perk up exactly the way Fanning does here when she burst into the classroom and recites the opening line of The Jabberwocky, this may not be the movie for you. Clarkson is better than ever in this role to the point I almost leave the movie more in love with her than Fanning, lol.
It’s hard to describe in a nutshell the rich tapestry of things this movie is “about”. On the one hand there’s a kind of Donnie Darko aspect to it, the possibility that what is happening to Fanning’s character is a little supernatural or plainly the product of a child’s imagination; on the other, it’s a very considered study of a girl with a particular form of Tourette’s. None of it is easily pinned down and that’s where the wonder of the story comes from. Through Fanning’s parents we encounter an open-mindedness that addresses the quickness of society to label problem children and quite probably on a number of occasions mis-diagnose and medicate willy-nilly (”“When I was a kid I counted telephone poles from the car. If I missed one we’d crash. Nobody labelled me …”) … Phoebe’s mother here is terrified of her daughter’s wild mind being “numbed” the way she’s seen countless other minds go. She tells a psychiatrist who she ultimately fires, “Your profession just doesn’t like kids to be kids,” and there’s a shocking ring of truth in these moments even as we slowly realise that, actually, this particular kid does have something wrong with her – even in the end when there is no doubt as to her condition, there’s the important suggestion that such a thing needn’t be as big a problem as people tend to make it. The movie points the finger at the failings of modern teaching, the risk averse society; Campbell Scott’s hilarious principal almost causing more danger by his fearful reaction to drama class “trust falls” than the perceived threat he’s preempting. It’s really one of those movies that to me is about everything in the end – there’s just so many of the things I’ve been thinking about lately that it addresses to perfection.