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Penelope is a 2006 Romantic Comedy film directed by Mark Palansky with a wide release in 2008. It stars Christina Ricci and James McAvoy as the romantic leads, with supporting characters played Peter Dinklage, Simon Woods, Catherine O'Hara and Reese Witherspoon (Who received primary billing, despite a relatively minor role).
Loosley based off the legend of the Pig-Faced Woman, the film is a Reconstruction of the classic Fairy Tale, following the story a child of wealthy parents cursed with the face of a pig until she is accepted by "one of her own," which both she and her parents interpret to mean a marriage to somebody of her own social class. She is kept in seclusion in her parents house her entire life, her very existence a secret after her parents faked her death as an infant in order to avoid the paparazzi, and she is trained in the arts and sciences to to make her the perfect prospective bride. After seven years of fruitless searching for a blue-blood suitor who will remain in the same room for even a moment after seeing her pig face, Penelope (Christina Ricci) has resigned herself to being in this state forever and she (And her father) believe that it is time to move on with her life and accept the fact that this curse might never be broken. When one final suitor (James McAvoy) seems to form a genuine emotional attachment to Penelope, only to also refuse to marry her after she reveals herself to him, Penelope flees her home and begins to live her life for the first time in the real world, making friends and enjoying the world which she had only ever seen through the windows of her room.
After being produced in 2006 the film was stuck in Release Hell, unable to find a distributor for several years after the movie had been completed. Eventually, Summit Entertainment purchased distribution rights in the United States for a 2008 release. Suffering financially, the North American gross barely covered its production costs and critical reception was mixed, split almost 50/50 on positivie and negative reviews. Nonetheless, the film has a unique style and visual feel, evocative both of classic fairy tales and modern cinema styles, and the performances of its cast blend perfectly with their roles.
Penelope contains examples of:
- All-Star Cast
- Bar Slide: Well, at least Penelope catches the second one.
- Beast and Beauty: Subverted, sort of. While Penelope is the one with the disfigurement, Lemon specifically refers to the picture of the engaged couple as, "The Beast... and Penelope."
- Big Fancy House
- Broken Aesop: When she finally accepts herself and her nose, the curse is lifted. Like make-over movies, the character may accept the "ugly" them but still get to keep the beautiful version. The movie ends with several kids guessing the moral, like "rich people stink", concluding that "it's not the power of the curse, it's the power you give the curse". A fair aesop, but the curse is still broken instead of lived with.
- Curse: Breaking the Hereditary Curse is what all the action hinges on. Penelope's mom gets one of her own after she still doesn't get the curse's moral despite some explaining.
- Design Student's Orgasm: Penelope's room looks like it came straight from an Anthropologie store, as does her clothes. The film as a whole, really.
- Disturbed Doves: When Penelope runs away.
- For Halloween I Am Going as Myself: Penelope goes to visit "Max" on Halloween, wearing... a pig mask. While little girls go trick-or-treating in her old outfit no less.
- Impoverished Patrician: What everyone mistakenly believes James McAvoy's character to be.
- Informed Flaw: The curse is described as giving Penelope the face of a pig, but all that she gets is the nose and ears. The ears are later surgically corrected, but the nose can't be.
- It Was with You All Along: After all of the angst about finding a proper suitor, it turns out Penelope could have broken the curse at any time, by simply accepting herself as she was.
- Mock Millionaire: "Max".
- Pig.. uh, Girl.
- Poker: It's where Lemon finds "Max", and the ability to walk away from the table (while he still has chips) shows "Max" /Johnny's character development.
- Punished with Ugly: An interesting case, since Penelope isn't the one who caused the curse of ugliness, she inherited it. Her mother obviously thinks she is the one being cursed.
- Purely Aesthetic Era / Retro Universe: The movie appears to be set in the same colorful non-indicative universe as Pushing Daisies and Babe.
- Reconstruction: The film is a reconstruction of the Fairy Tale Princess genre as a whole, which in recent years has undergone a minor Deconstruction with many films placing emphasis on the unstated problems in the Distressed Damsel genre of men rescuing women. Placed under a curse that everyone believes can only be broken by a marriage, the daughter of wealthy socialites looks for a man to rescue her. However, since they are only looking for blue-blood suitors all the prospective men are spoiled, self-indulged jerks who immediately judge her on her appeance and react out of fear and concern for how the situation will affect them. It is only when Penelope comes to terms with herself that her curse is lifted, and she unites with her love-interest after she essentially rescues herself.
- Runaway Bride: Penelope, at the end, to her fiance's great relief.
- Window Pain: To the point where her mother had to install shatter-proof glass!