Home > Reviews > PHOEBE IN WONDERLAND – Christophe Beck


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Phoebe in Wonderland is a family drama examining the life of a 9-year-old girl with Tourette’s Syndrome. Elle Fanning (the little sister of Dakota) stars as Phoebe, an odd and insecure little girl, whose parents (Felicity Huffman and Bill Pullman) are on the brink of divorce, and whose home-stresses manifest themselves through OCD-like behavior. However, when Phoebe discovers acting, and auditions for a part in the school production of Alice in Wonderland, she finally finds a way to cope with her life and her illness.

The film, which was directed by Daniel Barnz and won acclaim at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, has an original score by French-Canadian composer Christophe Beck. His music is generally light and airy, making use of gently flirtatious piano lines, idiosyncratic solo violin performances and quirky Newmanesque percussion which features marimbas, xylophones and glockenspiels in prominent roles. The lovely “Main Titles” provide the clearest and most fully developed synthesis of the style, although the overall feeling of whimsy and child-like imagination is retained throughout the score.

The majority of the subsequent cues build on this style, presenting half an hour of charming, slightly eccentric music that maintains a sense of innocence. Certain cues highlight a particular instrumental performance or color: “Auditions” features a blustery comic march with heavy pizzicato writing; “Down to Dinner” has a sonorous cello solo; “The Red Queen” has some lively and expressionistic solo violin parts; “I Feel Ugly” has bittersweet piano melodies; “Who I Am” has a beautiful sequence for solo harp, and so on and so forth. The score also has a recurring 4-note motif similar to the one James Horner often uses, which is passed around varying instruments in a number of cues, such as the sprightly “How to Put On a Play”.

The emotional high point of the score comes towards the end in the pretty “Realligator”, and it’s all very pleasant and undemanding, but is so insubstantial that it is gone from the memory almost as soon as the score is over.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • Main Titles (Phoebe’s Theme) (2:49)
  • To Be, or Not To Be (0:54)
  • Auditions (2:13)
  • Go On, Jump (1:23)
  • And Alice? Phoebe (0:47)
  • Down to Dinner (1:13)
  • How to Put On a Play (2:46)
  • The Red Queen (2:41)
  • Looking In (0:47)
  • Humpty (2:11)
  • The Catwalk (1:17)
  • I Feel Ugly (1:29)
  • Nightmare (1:16)
  • Hilary Paces (0:59)
  • Down the Rabbit Hole (1:06)
  • Fired (1:30)
  • Don’t Stop (1:23)
  • Who I Am (1:06)
  • Realligator (1:57)
  • End Credits (2:37)

Running Time: 32 minutes 24 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6952 (2009)

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