Posts Tagged Elle Fanning

Women’s History Month: some of my favorite films by women

Grace of My Heart [1996]
written and directed by Allison Anders
–Loosely based on the tumultuous rise of singer/songwriter Carole King, Grace of My Heart is a tour-de-force and one of my favorite films ever. Starring Illeana Douglas, Grace of My Heart takes viewers through the music biz from the famed Brill Building to communes and the hip 60s and beyond as one woman strives to find her own voice in a male-dominated industry.

Waitress [2007]
written and directed by Adrienne Shelly
–a charming and heart-warming film about an independent, spirited small-town woman [Keri Russell] determined to leave her abusive husband and make it big on her own.

Monsoon Wedding [2001]
directed by Mira Nair

Away from Her [2006]
written and directed by Sarah Polley
–a graceful love story about a woman with Alzheimer’s

Searching for Debra Winger [2002]
directed by Rosanna Arquette
–documentary on women in film, which includes amazing and very honest commentary from stars from Gwyneth Paltrow to Whoopi to Vanessa Redgrave to Salma Hayek to Charlotte Rampling to of course Debra Winger. It’s great that these women feel comfortable with age but sad to see the frustration and that there still is the issue of great roles for women over 30.

Broken English [2007]
Written and directed by Zoe Cassavetes
— story of Nora [formidable, immensely talented Parker Posey], a 35-year-old who seems stuck in a rut—both personally and professionally. Nora has become complacent and settled at her hotel job. She is beginning to delve into the Bell Jar after years of seeming to know what she wanted and now being at the age where she feels she should already be there.

The Namesake [2006]
directed by Mira Nair
–the story revolves around Gogol [Kal Penn], a mid-twenties architect who has been fighting against his traditional Indian family and heritage. He gets pulled back in by an unforeseen family crisis and it changes his outlook and future forever.

Bright Star [2009]
written and directed by Jane Campion
–wondrously languid, romantic and exquisitely filmed. It tells the story of the tender and tragic love affair between poet John Keats [Ben Whishaw] and his muse and love Fanny Brawne [Abbie Cornish] as told through her eyes.

Come Early Morning [2006]
written and directed by Joey Lauren Adams
–a woman [Ashley Judd] who struggles with alcoholism tries to get her life on track

Fire [1996]
Earth [1998]
Water [2005]
written and directed by Deepa Mehta

scene from Water

2 Days in Paris [2006]
written and directed by Julie Delpy
–an American and a Parisian talk a lot, fight a lot

Girlfight [2000]
written and directed by Karyn Kusama
–focus on female boxers

Somewhere [2010]
written and directed by Sofia Coppola
–a wayward actor [Stephen Dorff] and his heartfelt relationship with his daughter [Elle Fanning]

The Parking Lot Movie [2010]
directed by Meghan Eckman
–three years following the ins and outs of the attendants at a parking lot in Virginia. truly riveting. really.

SherryBaby [2006]
written and directed by Laurie Collyer
–after serving a three-year prison sentence, Sherry [Maggie Gyllenhaal] returns to New Jersey to try to re-establish family ties, including one with her daughter

The Hurt Locker [2009]
directed by Kathryn Bigelow
–heart-pounding thriller about the guys who diffuse IEDs in Iraq

The Kids Are All Right [2010]
co-written and directed by Lisa Chodolenko
–the teenage children of lesbian parents decide to contact the sperm donor and meeting him has implications on the entire family

Please Give [2010]
written and directed by Nicole Holofcener

Winter’s Bone [2010]
written by Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini
directed by Debra Granik
–a teenager [Jennifer Lawrence] searches for her father in dangerous, bleak meth-country

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film review: Phoebe in Wonderland


Phoebe in Wonderland  is a bittersweet and strange little gem with a talented cast. Elle Fanning is young Phoebe, a girl more comfortable in fantasy land than in reality due to an undiagnosed mental disorder that causes OCD. Her dark, depressed mom, Hillary, (Felicity Huffman) fights against motherhood and procrastination on her book about Alice in Wonderland. The film moves between Phoebe’s real struggles which impact her family and school and conforming, her dream world involving Alice in Wonderland and her ultimate realization of portraying Alice in the school play.

Phoebe’s unconventional theater teacher, Miss Dodger, (Clarkson) calmly draws the girl out by casting her as the lead in the school production of Alice in Wonderland. Around other children at school, Phoebe is shy and awkward but once she gets up on stage, she is focused and imaginative and brave. Miss Dodger encourages the young children to be freer and to open up in new ways on the stage. Phoebe admits to her psychiatrist that she wants to get away from the structured life in which she must live and the stage remains one place where fewer rules limit her. She can be happiest on stage.

Phoebe confides to her friend, another outsider, Jamie, who chooses to play the Queen of Hearts in the play: “Sometimes I get this feeling; this feeling of jumping off the edge of a roof…it’s what I feel like all the time with the things I do. I know I shouldn’t but I can’t help it. It’s like being on the edge of the roof all the time.”


Fanning exhibits intense emotional range in this role. It is impressive to see such a young actress be vulnerable. Her scenes are unsettling, touching, upsetting, sometimes painful. She can easily move from hurt to wide-eyed amazement and it is a delight to watch her on screen. Fanning is honest, open and raw with the material. Huffman is very good in this dulled down role as a frenzied mom who wants her child to be accepted label-free. She effectively shows stress, guilt, fear, exasperation and unconditional love.

As the film moves on it is evident that Phoebe wants to play Alice to be part of her mother’s world. Hillary, in turn, feels she is not being a good enough mother and not spending enough time with her two daughters. She resents her husband’s independence and  that he has been published and she is facing writer’s block because she has to “deal” with Phoebe’s issues each day. The family’s crisis takes hold and seems like it might ruin the dynamics until reasoning sets in.

Phoebe in Wonderland delves into serious issues in an imaginative way.


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