Penelope Mark Palansky

Penelope Mark Palansky
After premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2006, Penelope suffered a two-year shelving followed by a less than enthusiastic media push once it finally saw a limited theatrical release in 2008. This is usually a sign of a relatively crappy film with minimal star power but Penelope is an above-average film with assured direction and a consistent vision, in addition to a cast including Christina Ricci, Reese Witherspoon and James McAvoy. Also, a message of personal empowerment and independence regardless of social acceptance and romantic potential leaves the marketing door open for insecure teenaged girls, who seemingly have an endless abundance of disposable income. But Penelope has quickly found its way to DVD, where it should become a cult hit amongst the few who found its mixture of the fantastical and pragmatic refreshing and charming. The story follows the titular Penelope (Christina Ricci), a young woman cursed to have the face of a pig until she is truly accepted by a fellow blueblood. Interpreting this as marriage, her mother (Catherine O’Hara) proceeds to bring every eligible bachelor she can find into their estate in the hopes that just one of them will want her daughter. Without fail, each young man flees from her perceived monstrosity until a down-on-his-luck Max (James McAvoy) comes into the picture and seems to hit it off with the young shut-in. Unfortunately, in being desperate for cash, Max secretly teams up with a newspaper man (Peter Dinklage) who wants to publish a photo of the illusive pig-faced girl. Upon learning of this, Penelope is understandably pissed and decides to flee her home to see what the world has to offer, which is where she meets free-spirited gal-pal Annie (Reese Witherspoon). Something that helps this reverse Beauty & the Beast fable is the grounded and almost unaffected way that Christina Ricci plays a seeming victim. While she remains conscious of her difference and the social stigma attached to it, she doesn’t come across as meek or reliant on others, choosing instead to live her life regardless of what the slack-jawed masses think. The DVD heavily promotes the upcoming teen vampire romance Twilight and has a short featurette with actor interviews and minor insights on how this film came about. (Seville)