The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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‘Penelope’ touts whimsical fairy-tale of acceptance and love

As we grow up, we tend to let go of the fairy tale genre. The big-budget films with their elaborate story lines catch our eye and make us forget about the magical world of fantasy.

With the change in movies comes the change in the traditional fairy tale. “Penelope” has the ability to make you turn back to the genre you grew up with. It carries the whimsical characteristics of the films we once adored as children, but with a modern twist.

“Penelope,” directed by Mark Palansky, tells the tale of a blue-blood girl cursed with a pig’s snout because of her great-great-great grandfather’s wrongdoings. The only way to remove the curse is to have one of her own kind fall in love and marry her.

The title character, played by Christina Ricci, has been sheltered inside her home for 25 years, a choice made by her neurotic mother, Jessica Wilhern (Catherine O’Hara), who never for a moment let anyone forget she was suffering from the curse as well.

In her performance of a beautiful, rich girl with a snout, Ricci brings a charming and delightful image to the movie screen only fitting to a fairy tale like “Penelope.” Even though her performance wasn’t amazing, it did make you see past the snout and at the young lady waiting to break free.

O’Hara’s performance on the other hand was nothing short of hilarious. Her portrayal of the mother that doesn’t know when to stop surpasses the line of make believe and reminds you of your own mother. Her inability to let Penelope go not only makes Jessica seem overbearing, but in an odd sense, loveable.

The man who sees Penelope for more than just a girl with a snout is Max, played by the dreamy blue-eyed James McAvoy from “Atonement.” Max, who had his own secrets, was captivated by Penelope and realized there was more to life than his bad habits. Later in the film, in true fairy tale fashion, we find out through a twist of events that Max’s real name is Johnny Martin.

“Penelope” showcased an array of colorful characters usually found only in fairy tales. Lemon, a reporter for a make believe newspaper, literally gave his right eye to get a picture of baby Penelope. Peter Dinklage played the role of this bitter man who in the end allowed his conscious to win over his quest for justification.

Another interesting character is Edward Vanderman (Simon Woods), the villain of the film who wants nothing more than to prove that Penelope is a grotesque monster. Hating Edward’s character is easy because all he does is make our wonderful Penelope seem like the evil queen from “Snow White.”

One of the smaller characters in the film, Annie, is played by one of the bigger stars in the cast, Reese Witherspoon. Annie is a blunt, in-your-face delivery woman who befriends Penelope. Even though the character isn’t incredibly significant, Witherspoon’s performance and quick one-liners will leave you laughing in your seat. In addition to her small role, Witherspoon also served as one of the producers of the film.

The screenplay, written by Leslie Caveny, captures Penelope’s magical world and provides a light-hearted and nostalgic journey to a land we almost forgot. Caveny’s use of narration through Penelope’s voice allows viewers to go on the quest with Penelope to find the freedom she was always looking for.

Palansky’s direction of the film created a wonderland for Caveny’s screenplay. Even though the film wasn’t animated, the use of lighting and camera angles gave the illusion of a storybook land.

In one scene between Max and Penelope, she is sitting in her room behind an interrogation glass while he’s directly on the other side navigating the chess game they are playing. The scene is shot in a way that there doesn’t appear to be a plate of glass between them. It gives the illusion that Max can also see Penelope, and for a few fleeting moments, Penelope is under the same illusion, too.

“Penelope” is a quintessential modern-day fairy tale. It’s charming, refreshing, and a reminder of how movies used to make us believe in happily ever after. With intertwined references to fairy tales we grew up with, “Penelope” illustrates the one notion society tends to forget: like yourself just the way you are.

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