Alice in Wonderland - wonder mixed with purpose

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Contemporary Alice

I saw Alice in Wonderland last night in 3D with a friend and her 10year old daughter for her birthday and was thrilled to my core. Not only was it visually stunning, but the storyline took on a decidedly contemporary spin that had deep meaning and pertinence to all ages – but especially as a coming of age story. Much more serious than its earlier Disney counterpart (hard to believe that Disney made both), it incorporated politics that alluded to the Scottish subtext (was that in the original story?) I don’t know, but it unnecessarily complicates the story.

If anything, Carroll was trying to win one against Victorian moralism and rationalism to allow a girl to just be herself. It is a worthy cause, and Burton seems to have retold the Tale in a darker, more adult, and direct manner, a la Tim Burton.

Just be

How important is the notion of following your own path to fulfill your purpose than to compromise your SELF for comfort, or ease,  security or the acceptance of others? It is of the utmost importance.

Our heroine is asked repeatedly throughout the story whether she is the “real” Alice, and is doubted by many, but most importantly, herself. This not only implies that she is not the right Alice, their champion, but that she is an impostor; that Alice is posing as herself. The demands placed upon her frighten her, thus making her small. When she tries too hard to step into the shoes she’s been asked to wear she gets too big for herself. Only when she stops listening to others and asking for their advice and approval does she grow into her own size where she is able to do the task set before her. She has to come around to accepting herself, which includes her deep desire to help others at the expense of her own risk. Only then is she able to slay her/the dragon.

I admit, the rest of the plot was overly complicated and had some gaping holes, but the essence of the story rings pure and true: Be Yourself.

Anyone who leaves the theater and doesn’t get this simple message wasn’t paying attention (like the teenagers behind us who loudly proclaimed the movie was “stupid” as I reverently watched the credits).

So much care and imagination went into the making of this film. For instance, the makeup of the mad hatter (Johnny Depp) was quite brilliant. You can imagine that he really had been slowly poisoned by working with mercury over time (the all-too-common ailment of milliners). I happen to have met Johnny’s makeup artist, Patty York, personally and it gave me great joy to see her creativity on the screen. She is an admirable and super-sweet woman.

This is one of the most important lessons we all need to learn and be reminded of consistently. Integrity begins at home. We must learn to follow our deepest bliss rather than whatever looks good around the next bend.

And oooooh the colors! I was squealing with delight the entire film.

The fantasy film triumvirate of Tim Burton, Johnny Depp and Helena Bohnam Carte rules. The voice of Alan Rickman as the wise caterpillar (biblical reference to Absalom added in the movie, but not present in the book) made me squirm in my seat.

Besides, the costuming was oh so Steam Punk: my favorite dress-up attire. So many deserving San Francisco designers will be seeing profits from this exposure of style. Colleen Atwood did a marvelous job.

This film is well worth seeing at any age, especially if you have yet to learn the lesson that it's more than okay to be yourself.

Jen MurphyComment