Sunday, November 8, 2009

thoughts about Phoebe in Wonderland

My sister recommended this movie to us awhile back, thinking that we might like it as it relates somewhat to our experiences with Samuel. We finally watched it last night. And it is one of those movies that is almost painful to watch, it hits so close to home. But it was really very good and I would recommend it highly.

Here is the synopsis from the Rotten Tomatoes movie review website:

Synopsis: So much of what constitutes psychological inquiry in cinema is overly simplistic, boiling down the complexity of behavior to clich├ęs. So it’s exceptionally gratifying, when dealing with subjects as difficult as parenting and growing up, to find as rich an inquiry as Daniel Barnz’s remarkable Phoebe in Wonderland. This is at once a tale of Phoebe (Elle Fanning), a young girl who is different, and a portrait of her mother (Felicity Huffman), a woman caught between trying to raise a child and striving for success in an academic career, while feeling a failure in both. It also includes an unusually gifted, but peculiar, educator—a drama teacher (Patricia Clarkson), who is directing the school production of Alice in Wonderland, which Phoebe longs to be part of. As talented and exceptional as Phoebe appears to be, she is also increasingly far away, retreating into fantasy, and frustrating her parents and teachers. As an examination of normalcy and madness, this is realistic and cerebral storytelling, but it is also extravagantly magical, a metaphorical fable that examines childhood, our attempts to understand it, and the way we, as parents and teachers, navigate its treacherous shoals. A film full of strangeness, exhilarating moments of realization, and painfully real revelations, Phoebe in Wonderland is an honest and thoughtful work that is not to be missed. --© Sundance Film Festival

The things that I related to and thought were particularly interesting were:

- how the mother was reluctant to have her child "labeled" - the difference between what is just imagination and being unique, and what is a symptom of a "disorder." You all know I constantly struggle between the difference between accepting a child for his differences, and wanting to "fix" or "treat" or help or change a child for the better. When to celebrate the little quirks that make us all unique human beings, and when to say that is just not "normal," something is wrong - and we need to help them, we need to intervene to help them live to their potential.

- the sometimes thin line that divides normal behavior from disordered behavior. We sometimes hear people saying "well, we all have a little bit of ADHD", or autism, or depression, or OCD, or whatever - but because we all sometimes display bits and pieces of the symptoms, does not mean we have a "touch" of the disorder. No. To be labeled a disorder means it is causing a significant problem in your day to day functioning. Period.

- the mother's guilt and blame that she felt. How many times do we think that our children might be different, behave differently, be different, if we had done things differently? And how many times is it just completely out of our control, whether we want to admit that or not.

- the feelings of the sibling, having a sibling who is different. The burden of having to explain why your sibling doesn't behave like other kids, the desire to have a different sibling. The jealousy of the attention that one gets because they have "problems."

- how difficult it is to really get to know our children deeply and to truly understand what is going on in their heads. And the feelings of inadequacy and failure when we just can't understand. The mysteries of childhood - how close and how far away it feels to us as grown ups.

- the confusion, conflicted feelings, etc etc
It was all very very familiar.

Anyway - great movie, I thought, even if maybe these things wouldn't mean as much to you as they did to me. Have you seen it? What did you think?

5 comments:

Alyssa said...

sounds like something I would want to watch...intriguing

Liz said...

I've been wanting to see this movie. I think its available for instant view on Netflix. I will watch it soon and let you know what I think.

Chelsea Roeber said...

Kristen, I love this movie!!! It's so touching...i love it! :) I heard of it and saw it months ago and I fell in love. It's obvious that the f word basically ruined it, but it was such a good movie. I'm so glad you liked it too!

What sister recommended it to you??

Anonymous said...

i'm guessing the recommend came from heather ;)

~mags

heather b. said...

I'm so glad you liked it. I just had a hunch you'd relate to some of those issues as I thought of your family's experiences the whole time I watched it.

I loved the movie for Elle Fanning's adorableness and her great acting, the literary/imaginative theme of Alice and Wonderland, and the message to embrace uniqueness even though it may make it difficult to fit in as a child. Loved it!

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