Tuesday, March 9, 2010


I was with Alice from the minute she fell down that hole--and Tim Burton really took me there. ALICE IN WONDERLAND is a girl's journey. Unlike AVATAR in which the hero layers on a second, perfected self and thrusts himself into a new world doing battle in outer space, Alice falls inward in search of herself; she tries out different sizes, different clothes, battling her own perceptions to make sense of the skewed reality around her, until she finds a skin she's comfortable in: her own. Before she tumbles to a disastrous marriage proposal from a nitwit, she must tumble to herself, and find her "muchness."

Tim Burton has orchestrated a weirdly gorgeous dreamworld, all iridescence and shadow, wind and odd words. Burton lets us see that Alice has followed herself down the hole and becomes this prism in 3D, her diaphanous clothing like the moss and leaves and toadstools--it's all herself--including the Madhatter, one of Johnny Depp's most ingenious, endearing, and complicated creations. He's channeling a lisp and a burr. I couldn't take my eyes off his outsize irises--or his eyebrows. I often think his performances indulgent (Captain Jack Sparrow swashbuckles to mind). But here he is mesmerizing, fully giving way to his imagination. 20 year old Mia Wasikowska as Alice straddles the girl/woman divide with tenderness and ease. Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen with her bulbous head and bloated ego calls to mind an inflated Queen Elizabeth I. She cracked me up.

There were but two false notes. Anne Hathaway was actressy and outside the part, posing rather than being. To work, these strange characters must be believable. Ironically, Crispin Glover--an odd duck in real life--didn't seem strange enough as the Knave of Hearts. And then there was that unfortunate last bit involving Depp dancing, an embarassing ploy to pull in a particular demographic. It pulled me right out of the film.

But the rest is a fantastical journey that excited me to my marrow. Even the soundtrack featuring edgy alternative artists like Owl City, All Time Low, and Avril Lavigne and her single "Alice(Underground)" held me in my seat right through the end credits, until I forced myself up-- and out into the light.

Good night--
And stay tuned!

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