Penelope is a charming and original fairytale story set in modern times. The titular heroine, played by Christina Ricci, bears a generations-old family curse in the form of a pig’s snout. Her loving, upper-crust parents, the Wilherns (Richard E. Grant and Catherine O’Hara), have kept her isolated from the rest of the world since birth to protect her from nosy journalists and the possible rejection from her average-nosed peers. Penelope grows up lonely but surrounded by whimsical toys, endless books, and comfortable luxury. In order to break the spell and gain her true face, Penelope must find a suitably upper class husband, or “one of her own kind”, as the magic dictates. As her mother parades suitor after suitor into the house (making sure they sign confidentiality agreements before meeting Penelope), down-on-his-luck Max Campion (James McAvoy), a young man with a gambling addiction, sneaks in and wins Penelope’s heart. He inspires the innocent heroine to leave her isolated life and explore the world outside and she does, finding acceptance in the process. Peter Dinklage, Reese Witherspoon, Nick Frost, and Russell Brand round out the rest of the cast.
The utterly enchanting art direction helps to build the fairytale atmosphere of the film. From the Wilhern house to the non-era specific metropolis that Penelope explores, there are fun details everywhere. Even Penelope’s purple jacket with mismatched buttons and her pink and yellow knit scarf have an air of whimsy, infusing the Manhattan-esque city around her with magic. The cast looks like they are thoroughly enjoying themselves, although some of them have nothing to do and could honestly be cut out without consequence (looking at your Reese!). But, overall Penelope is a great feel-good film.
Rating: 3 out of 5 hexagon-patterned scarves