Phoebe in Wonderland is a movie from 2008 about a young girl who is in love with Alice in Wonderland. Her mother, a writer, is working on a dissertation on the novel, and their house is a magical place, where Phoebe and her sister are entertained with imaginative projects. In school, Phoebe has trouble adjusting to class and her peers, because she has a bad habit of mimicking the teacher, speaking out of turn, and occasionally spitting at her classmates when they distress her. In one of the first scenes of the movie, Phoebe sits in class after class as they go over the classroom rules. It is quite obvious that she is tired of following the prescript set before her.
Suddenly, the new drama teacher shows up, and quotes Alice in Wonderland, advertising the school play. Due to Phoebe’s love for Alice’s world, she manages to find the courage to sign up for auditions. The rest of the film focuses on the preparation for the play, where Phoebe plays the part of Alice, and her anxieties about making the audition and ‘getting fired’ after being cast as the main part.
It is quite clear, early on, that something is not quite right with Phoebe. In order to quell her anxiety, she washes her hands to the point of them becoming raw, has to jump a certain number of steps on the stairs, over and over, and will perform a difficult hopping and clapping game that involves not stepping on cracks. Her parents quickly become concerned, and her behaviors seem to worsen, until her misbehavior in the classroom gets her kicked out of the play. In the end, it becomes clear that Phoebe suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome, a psychological disorder where she cannot control her compulsion to break rules, nor can she control her ritualistic actions despite the distress they cause her.
Through out the film, there are various allusions to the world on Wonderland. Phoebe often imagines the characters appearing before her, talking to her. In this manner, she attempts to derive advice from them about her life problems. The scenes of the play include direct quotes from the book, and costumes that seem fitting for the world of Wonderland. Overall, the message that is pushed, in regards to Alice in Wonderland, is the idea that it is an imaginary world with a different set of rules. It is a place where everything is essentially upside down. In this sense, the world of Alice in Wonderland seems ideal to Phoebe, who would like to be free from the omnipresent rules about what one should and should not do. She dreams of following Alice to a place where she can be free. As a result, the theatre serves as a release for her, where she can become Alice, and do as she pleases. While this movie is not a direct adaptation of the book Alice in Wonderland, it contains accurate allusions to the play, and is a heartwarming film about a unique young girl discovering a place where she feels secure in a world that seems to be against her.