Picks and Pans Review: Phoebe in Wonderland

updated 03/16/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 03/16/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Elle Fanning, Felicity Huffman, Patricia Clarkson | PG-13 |

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DRAMA
Nine-year-old Phoebe (Fanning) obsessively jumps across paving stones outside her house, stopping every few steps to clap. Her mother (Huffman) watches this private ritual with an uneasy gaze, aware that something's off about her daughter. With much heart but mixed success, Phoebe in Wonderland shifts repeatedly between the viewpoints of mother and daughter as each begins to recognize that Phoebe's compulsive behavior (spitting at classmates, yelling inappropriate comments) may indicate a deeper problem. Desperate Housewives' Huffman, playing another sort of desperate housewife, gives a marvelous, complex performance. She deftly delineates a caring mother whose discontent with her own life may be impeding her willingness to find out what's troubling her child.

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