Posts Tagged Patricia Clarkson

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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film review: Married Life

Married Life is all about how little you might actually know about someone with which you share a bed. The minutiae of day to day life sometimes get in the way of delving into one’s psyche at times. When you’re married, time moves along and the person you knew may have actually changed, as in fact, many people actually do. It’s only natural to learn and progress in one’s life and not be stagnant. Married Life charms and delights with its various ruminations on love and relationships.

Pierce Brosnan is sexy, dapper “ladies man” Richard and there’s his “pale-lipped” friend Harry Allen (Chris Cooper). Harry has been married to Pat (Patricia Clarkson) for years and they seem to have the perfect marriage. Harry thinks killing his wife would be less complicated than divorce. Rich meets Harry’s new object of affection, young, darling Kay (Rachel McAdams). He cannot even believe that his habitual, staid friend snagged such a babe and realizes he must have her himself.

Ira Sachs (Forty Shades of Blue) wrote and directed Married Life. The film zips along with its solid script, witty and snappy dialogue and thoughtful and deliciously unpredictable moments. More than once, I was literally at the edge of my seat holding my breath. The film has elements of Hitchcock in that is it going to work and how and when it will happen. In 1949, it’s a simpler time with diners, luncheons, tea, radio, and dancing on the town or to the picture show as an actual night out. There’s something overall romantic about this time. The narration, which I have grown tired of as a plot device (I see it as such a short cut to the main ideas too often), actually works here in adding to the overall nostalgia and quaintness. Many scenes are like Hopper paintings come alive making Married Life a visual treat as well as a compelling film.

McAdams (Wedding Crashers, The Notebook) is lovely and so good in these period roles. She looks comfortable and there are layers of sweetness under that platinum hair. Clarkson possesses the right amount of mischief and devotion in her role as the dutiful, seemingly predictable wife. Brosnan is brooding and complex and yummy. I just couldn’t buy the Cooper vs. Brosnan though. Hands down I would take a wolf in Brosnan’s clothing instead of a sheep like Cooper’s character. Cooper/McAdams give the impression of father/daughter more than older man/younger woman. But please don’t let that stop you, somehow it all flows along. I suppose that in Harry, a young widow would view safe and secure instead of adventure and excitement in a guy like Rich. The entire cast is so ridiculously talented that you come to like every character in some way.

Married Life is a fantastic film that will seduce you from its first scene to its last.


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