Circus folk can be really fascinating if they’re not horrifying
(so I’ve heard), but when you’ve grown up with your
father’s circus troupe, the fantastic has become routine.
Wake up, practice juggling, get on the unicycle, balance a baseball
bat on your nose, wash the bear, put the bear on the unicycle, practice
juggling with the bear, wash the unicycle, etc. Where does a child
who grew up in a circus dream of running off to? The military? Man,
I’m glad I didn’t grow up in a circus, at least not
a popular one.
Helena (Leonidas) knows the dreary fate of a
circus child. She has been with her father’s troupe for her
whole life, and needs to expand, someway, somehow. This places some
strong tension between her and her mother (McKee),
who needs her with the family, so that her father (Brydon)
can continue running the circus. But nobody likes a cage, and Helena
becomes a hissy little bitch when she and her parents fight. Well,
the good times couldn’t last, and in the middle of a show,
Helena’s mother collapses, with some sort of severe spike
in her soul (located somewhere in her brain). Now, Helena finds
herself haunted by her angry words to her mother that amount to
wishing she’d die. Lost in her artistic scribbles, she tries
to cope with the world, waiting to hear whether her mother will
survive a dangerous operation. She lays her head down to rest, has
a horrid little dream, and wakes up in wonderland. This wonderland
is dark, with shadow creeping in on the scarce light that exists.
She makes a quick friend with a juggler (Barry)
and sets out to explore this world, finding it eerily connected
to her own. This world holds the key to her problems in her real
life, and if she could make things right here, then maybe she might
bring some balance to herself. But not everything is as it seems.
She is not in her own dream… or is she?
First off, this was a damned good movie. It got a little slow
start, what with establishing the conflict in reality, and then
introducing the other world, but once it got rolling it was damned
good. As for “wonderland” itself, it seemed… unfocused.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m very glad that there are Hensons
left in film, and that this particular one has moved past muppets,
but the basic nature of the dream world didn’t quite strike
me as unified. It starts out bizarre, with Helena seeming as weird
to them as they do to her. She ventures further across the dream
world with her juggler boy friend (not boyfriend), into the shadow
lands, and then the theme of the movie starts pulling the dream
together. The grand picture comes out, bringing to light all the
struggles Helena’s imagination has suffered, and Voila! You
have a damned good movie.
So go see this movie! The comedy is stretched a little thin for
my tastes, but I sometimes get the feeling that I’m a touch
too demanding in the funny department. Also the initial eccentricities
from the beginning are left as sort of meaningless, because the
shadow realm is so well focused and lacks the random shit that characterized
the city of light. So don’t see it for the comedy or the meaningless
characters. See it for the fascination, the wonder, the tolerable
admission fee, and best of all, the mute clowns. Go for all the
reasons you’d go to a circus. And then, stay for a good lesson
on what it means to be a good mother and a good daughter, even if
the lesson is in British. Just make sure that if you’re paying
someone else’s way, that you really like that person.