One You Might've Missed #18: Penelope


by: Rebeca Surber

Finding diamonds in the rough is a wonderful feeling, but in order to do so, you usually have to watch a lot of bad movies. takes the pain away by recommending a movie that you may have never heard of, or missed when it first came out.

Once upon a time Reese Witherspoon (WALK THE LINE) decided to produce and take on a very small part in a fairy tale that captured my heart with the unique twist on a standard storyline, imaginative scenes and perfectly cast actors. PENELOPE is the tale of an aristocratic family cursed by their great, great, great grandfather after he rejects the servant girl and marries another instead. Legend has it that the servant girl’s mother, the town witch, cast a spell commanding the next daughter born in the Wilhern family would have the face of a pig so they would endure the pain & rejection her daughter experienced. The spell would only be broken when one of their own kind claims his daughter as their own til death do they part. As predicted, the curse comes true generations later with the birth of the first Wilhern girl, Penelope, (Christina Ricci).

Christina Ricci in Penelope

To keep reporters at bay, they fake Penelope’s death and keep her hidden away; grooming her for the day she will find love and the curse will be broken. The world created within the mansion for Penelope is visually impressive; her room is rich in color and whimsical fantasy. Lush greens, rare flowers, butterflies and a large swing hanging from the ceiling give the room a fresh outdoor ambiance.

Christina Ricci and James McAvoy in Penelope

Match-making ensues as the family interprets that the curse can only be broken by blue bloods – one of their own kind. Catherine O’Hara (BEST IN SHOW, HOME ALONE) is her usual brilliant self playing Penelope’s forever meaning well, over-bearing, loud mother and controller of the match-making despite witnessing the constant rejection Penelope faces once her potential suitors see her snout and run. After one suitor gets away without signing a legal gag swearing him to secrecy he teams up with a reporter (Peter Dinklage) hatching a plan to capture a picture of Penelope to show the world. They find Max Campion (the ever hot James McAvoy), a down and out blue blood, to go in as a spy for a small sum. The chemistry between Ricci and McAvoy, though slow to develop is charming and sweet. From their first encounter I’m rooting for their relationship to develop into something life-changing for the two characters.

Christina Ricci in Penelope

When Max rejects Penelope’s proposal for reasons not yet explained, she flees her home, the only place she had known for 20-something years and discovers a whole new world of stores, parks, pubs, street fairs and friends. She teams up with Annie (Reese Witherspoon) and learns how to be on her own all while hiding her swine like features.

James McAvoy in Penelope

Ricci is wonderful as the tender hearted, optimistic Penelope. Witherspoon on the other hand, tries too hard to be the tough chick image she chose for her character. It seems a bit forced and unnatural. McAvoy always does well as the wrong guy who finds love then rejection (as seen in BECOMING JANE or ATTONEMENT) is once again perfect in this role. His facial scruff, blue eyes and fresh attitude make him irresistible to Penelope (and this viewer). In short, this movie is full of heart and the underlining theme of liking yourself as you are (pig snout and all) is touching and a good reminder to us all.

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