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Sundance BuzzCheck™: 'Phoebe in Wonderland' (and special guest Jodie Foster!)

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Phoebeinwonderland_l

Phoebeinwonderland_lUnfortunately, I can’t quite tell you how the audience reacted to young Elle Fanning in the title role of Phoebe in Wonderland — I had to race to another screening as the final credits rolled, so I missed the post-show Q&A with Fanning and other members of the film’s cast and crew. The applause as I scurried out the door was muted, but that could just be because the film’s ending — which I won’t spoil here — was truly bittersweet. (Okay, here’s a hint: The movie follows the 9-year-old Phoebe and her mother, played by Felicity Huffman, as they both struggle with Phoebe’s increasingly mysterious and troubling obsessive behavior and her Alice in Wonderland-infused fantasy life.)

I can tell you for certain, though, that Phoebe in Wonderlandmade quite an impression on one audience member in particular: JodieFoster. I know this because she was sitting right next to me. I askedher what other films she’d seen here, andshe told me she actually was only in town to see  Phoebe.Well, that, “and some skiing.” It turns out that her kids go to thesame preschool as the kids of the film’s first-time writer-director,Daniel Barnz. (A longtime Hollywood screenwriter, he also penned a project called Sugarland, that Foster had been attached to direct.) Anyway, one scene in particular — in which Phoebe sobs in her mother’s arms, helpless to explain what is wrong — moved meand, from what I could tell, Foster, quite deeply. We’ll see if thefilm made the same impression on distributors like the folks from Miramax, who I spotted on the way out. (And if you were wondering: No,alas, I did not make my next screening in time. Damn you, Sundancetraffic!)

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