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Penelope (2006) - Whimsical Modern Fairytale


Penelope

There are some films that slip under moviegoers notice. These are the movies that might be ordinary in plotting,  but are extraordinary in imagination.

Young Penelope Wilhern is the product of the curse on her father’s family name. One that stipulated the first born Wilhern daughter would be born with the face of a pig after her great-(insert several more generations in this relation) grandfather ruined the reputation of a serving girl and with it her mother brings a curse on their family name. Generations pass and only sons are born to the heirs of the Wilhern fortune, until… Penelope comes along. Only true love by one of her own kind can break the curse which leads to endless string of would-be suitors who scream their way out the front door at the mere glimpse of Penelope. This eventually gives a 20-something Penelope (Christian Ricci) the courage to break free from the prison her mother (Catherine O’ Hara) has protected her in.

First, there is one more suitor. Enter Max Campion (James McAvoy), a down-on-his-luck blue blood who… stays. He doesn’t run like the 12 other men and countless before them and Penelope establishes a connection with him through the protective barrier of a mirror separating them. Only there’s a catch – Max isn’t who he needs to be and Penelope isn’t who she wants to be.

CLASSIC ROMANTIC MOMENT OF THE WEEK | Penelope and Max
Penelope

Rarities like this charming tale don’t often get big budget treatment which translates to little or no promotion. This cute film was completed in 2006 yet was continually delayed for its market. Fortunately, it did play at a theater within a reasonable travelling distance and I can still remember watching the colorful tale unfold on the big screen. A film that a recent rewatch elected a different perspective of the movie. While my younger self probably liked the fairy tale elements, I am not sure that I would have been “open” to how quirky the movie is whereas my adult self adores the sass and quirky elements, plus the film has a great deal more to impart on a willing participant than a typical Disney-esque bubble of joy.

It's no stretch to say Penelope is a re-imagining of Beauty and the Beast minus all classic indicators of the story (a red rose, a villainess or a selfless sacrifice). The similarities are still bold enough for anyone to catch allowing the script to retain some originality to being its own modern fable. To be honest, I don’t think that the story is brilliantly clever; however it’s in the details surrounding the script that really makes the movie shine. 

From the  first moment we glimpse Penelope’s room to her wondrous (a-la Rapunzel style) introduction to the world, the creative minds behind the camera were on their A-game with this set design - everything is magical. All of the fantabulous, whimsical markers have a purpose and not only envelop the viewer in a sense of first heartbreaks or warm magic – as the making-of feature remarks, they’re all indicative of the characters and their respective personalities. There are bright colors, bubbles, mismatched costumes and a sense of awe threaded through the entire film. It’s more than charming in those respects and that means that this story surpasses whatever “rules” it’s put up against.

Penelope

Putting into perspective the names that bring these characters to life, I am surprised at how well everyone worked together. From Richard E. Grant to Simon Woods, Burn Gorman (hello, Guppy!) and Reese Witherspoon, the cast sparkles. Reese (pulling double as star and producer) adds some spunk (plus a cute would-be romance) while Christina Ricci puts more personality and depth into Penelope’s character than one might expect – and then there is McAvoy. He’s not a typical leading man however he and Ricci share some fabulous chemistry. Not the fireworks sort, but something that goes deeper; their screen time together is magic.

Perhaps the greatest accomplishment is the lesson Penelope leaves us with. The script encourages us to think, and hopefully reminds us that beauty is fading, and conditional love is damaging. Nearly all of the characters learn something and as a result, each of them offer and accept unconditional love. Knowing that, it’s hard not to fall in love with Penelope, a story about more than second chances.  

CONTENT: There are one or two minor profanities and at least one unfortunate albeit veiled sexual innuendo. There is some drinking and worthless gambling. The film deals in thematic elements [and a suicide is committed out of camera range as well as a brief suggestion of committing suicide] and conditional love. Penelope rates PG.
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Rissi
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30 comments:

  1. I love this movie to pieces. It's my favorite modern film (not including period dramas...yes, I have all my favorites divided up in categories :). I love the story, the characters, and the humor. And I want Penelope's room and clothes. The romance is so sweet, and the message of the movie is great. The quirkiness, the settings and cinematography, the fairytale-ness and fantastical elements of it all really appeal to me. Basically I just love everything about this film. :) Every time I watch it, it inspires me in so many different ways. It's a shame more people don't know about it!

    ~Kristin

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    1. "YES!" times two to everything you said here, Kristin.

      This movie is adorable and a keeper. It's got class and isn't afraid to be different at the same time. Its greatest joy (for me) is the gorgeous chemistry between McAvoy and Ricci. Neither one are really the first names we consider for a fairytale-esue story, however they play these roles with ease and seem very comfortable doing so. Basically, I just cannot say enough good about the film - and after a LONG time not rewatching it, I was blissfully reminded just HOW good it was. :)

      It IS a shame more people aren't familiar with Penelope. It's a rare gem.

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  2. I love this movie. It's so terribly sweet.

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    1. DITTO! I was reminded just HOW MUCH I loved the film when finally re-watching it. <3

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  3. I love this movie!! This is a forever favorite. Glad you like this one too! :D

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    1. *High Five*

      For me as well, Rosie - the movie is magical in an usual (special) way. Love that. :)

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  4. I love this movie, it's sweet and cute and just wonderful =) And James MacAvoy was <3

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    1. McAvoy and Ricci share FAB chemistry in the movie. And I think that was one of its best assets. Happy you are a fan also, Lianne! :)

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  5. I watched this sometime last year, I think, and I liked it, but I also disliked it. I think I remember thinking some of it was cheesy. But James MacAvoy and Christina Ricci's chemistry was incredible.

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    1. That chemistry is quite possibly Penelope's greatest strength, Hannah - it was so full of, well, joy! :)

      Sorry the film didn't "click" for you (I know that feeling!) - glad you shared your thoughts.

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  6. Great review! This is one of my favorite movies. I love the story but also the set and costuming - truly wonderful!

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    1. Ditto! It's one of my very faves also, Katy. Wish it hadn't taken me so long for a rewatch. :)

      Thanks for reading!

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  7. I've seen Penelope several times and love it!!!

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    1. *High Five*

      Right there with you, Maria. :)

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  8. I was going to say something about how much I love this movie... not to copy everyone else or anything. It's such a cute story! And I have a huge soft spot for James McAvoy and those eyes of his. ;)

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    1. Hooray - another fan! :) Love all the like this one is getting in this comment thread, Lizzie - so never apologize for similar commenting. It sure is a keeper.

      James isn't an actor I follow closely, however, this is likely one of his best roles. It's just... a gem!

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  9. This is one of my favorite movies. I love love love it.

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  10. I heard about this one from a friend! Knowing that you, and my friend, liked it makes me want to watch it now. And I love the beauty and beast story (who doesn't?) so I at least have that going for me!

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    1. The movie is a bit quirky, Evelyn, however the lesson, sets and acting are marvelous - and the quirkiness only adds to the appeal.

      Hope you enjoy the film if you see it - let us know what you thought. :)

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  11. I love this movie, it' one of my faves! A large part of this love is devoted to Penelope's Uh-Mazing wardrobe!!

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    1. Too true, Katysue. Everything about the movie sparkles. :)

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  12. I love this movie, I have been trying to watch it again as I have only seen it once a few years ago. It was so much fun and such a sweet romance. I keep hoping they will put it on Netflix for me.

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    1. Huh, this one isn't on Netflix!? That's very uncool. Hope you can find it, Jack (perhaps check Amazon's rental program, too). It's certainly worth a rewatch. :)

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  13. I remember this! Such a cute movie. Rissi, I nominated you for the book lover's Liebster Award over at my blog. No pressure to participate, if you'd rather not. I love your thoughtful reviews and wanted to give you a shout-out. :-)

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    1. It IS cute, Gwendolyn. Glad you enjoyed the movie too - I know sometimes quirkiness can be "off-putting" but in this case, it only "adds to" the effect. :)

      Oh, thanks a million for the Liebster! I am honored and grateful. THANK YOU, Gwendolyn! I appreciate you reading and the comments; it always means a lot.

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  14. I loved this movie! There were so many good lessons about accepting yourself and the power of standing up for yourself. Plus the magical quality was really charming. I love movies that mix the real world with the magical world without being too obvious. Plus that kiss at the end is enchanting!

    ~Miss Littlefield

    http://costumesandcompanions1.blogspot.com

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    1. Ditto!

      This movie is a keeper (to put it mildly) and I cannot believe it took me so long to re-watch! There's a lot of poignant messages and the little, whimsical details in the movie are priceless. :)

      Thanks bunches for the comments and blog follow today, Miss Littlefield. Appreciate both - you are most welcome and I hope you enjoyed your visit. :)

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  15. Adorable movie. So sweet and fun.

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