"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you CAN make words mean so many different things."
—Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

Humpty Dumpty–esque word users can be seen (and heard) everywhere. After all, the English language is often bent, twisted, and manipulated to serve the users' purposes. We see this in our use of labels: When someone doesn't fit into cultural standards (boys who are effeminate, children who act out), he or she often gets slapped with easy—but not always accurate—labels.

This is just one of the areas in which the Sundance Film Festival–selected Phoebe in Wonderland uses the themes of Lewis Carroll's classic tales to tell the story of a 9-year-old trying to make sense of herself and the real world around her. Phoebe Lichten (newcomer Elle Fanning, sister of Dakota) is the imaginative daughter of two intellectuals, Peter (Bill Pullman) and Hillary (Felicity Huffman). The latter is working on a book about Carroll's works, and her love for that world has been passed to Phoebe. Her imaginary "Looking Glass Land" is the only place where Phoebe feels comfortable. Stuck in a harsh, rules-based world she doesn't fit into, she longs to go to Alice's Wonderland, where "things aren't so fixed."

Phoebe's anxieties, questions, and internal struggles manifest in troubling ways. She mimics others, bursts into biting lines of mocking rhyme, and spits at people when threatened. She often feels an irresistible compulsion to blurt out inappropriate comments and repeat actions over and over. To make the school play, she decides she must complete a complicated series ...

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Phoebe in Wonderland
Our Rating
3½ Stars - Good
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Mpaa Rating
PG-13 (for thematic material and brief strong language)
Genre
Directed By
Daniel Barnz
Run Time
1 hour 36 minutes
Cast
Felicity Huffman, Patricia Clarkson, Elle Fanning, Bill Pullman
Theatre Release
January 20, 2008
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