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Penelope Review

Christina Ricci turns in another stellar performance in her latest film, Penelope.

Centuries ago, a servant girl for the aristocratic Wilherns was wronged by a male family member, prompting the girl’s witch mother to put a curse on them: The next daughter born to the Wilherns would have the face of a pig and the only way to break this curse would be for the girl to find true love with “one of her own kind.” There are no daughters born to the Wilherns for five generations … until Penelope (Christina Ricci). Sporting a pig-like snout, the otherwise cute Penelope is hidden away by her parents (Catherine O’Hara and Richard E. Grant) after they fake her death.

Penelope lives a sheltered life within her parents’ urban mansion (the film was shot in London, but its setting suggests a fairy tale version of New York). When she finally comes of age, Penelope’s parents arrange for a series of blue-blooded suitors to come courting in the hopes of finally breaking the curse. The suitors must sign confidentiality agreements before they can meet the concealed heiress and they always flee in horror once Penelope finally reveals her face. One such suitor, Edward Vanderman (Simon Woods), escapes the Wilhern estate without signing a confidentiality agreement and runs straight to the press with exaggerated tales of a horrible pig-faced succubus.

Lemmon (Peter Dinklage), a hard-bitten reporter who has a long-standing grudge against the Wilherns, believes Edward and devises a plan to capture a photo of Penelope. They key to their scheme is Max (James McAvoy), a scruffy blue blood who will pose as a suitor but who ends up becoming genuinely infatuated with Penelope. She eventually makes her way into the real world, where she encounters the Vespa-riding free spirit Annie (Reese Witherspoon, who also produced) and gets her proverbial 15 minutes of fame. Will Penelope ever find true love with “one of her own kind”? Or will she just have to learn to accept herself instead?

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