Penelope (2006 film)

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Penelope Poster 2.jpg
Directed by Mark Palansky
Produced by Reese Witherspoon
Scott Steindorff
Dylan Russell
Jennifer Simpson
Written by Leslie Caveny
Starring Christina Ricci
James McAvoy
Catherine O'Hara
Peter Dinklage
Richard E. Grant
Reese Witherspoon
Music by Joby Talbot
Cinematography Michel Amathieu
Editing by Jon Gregory
Studio Stone Village Pictures
Type A Films
Grosvenor Park Productions
Zephyr Films
Distributed by Summit Entertainment (USA)
The Weinstein Company (Premiered)
Momentum Pictures (UK)
Release dates
  • September 8, 2006 (2006-09-08) (TIFF)
  • February 1, 2008 (2008-02-01) (United Kingdom)
  • February 29, 2008 (2008-02-29) (United States)
Running time 104 minutes
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget $15 million
Box office $21,156,270[1]

Penelope is a 2006 fantasy romantic comedy film directed by Mark Palansky which was first released in 2006 and stars Christina Ricci, James McAvoy and Reese Witherspoon.[2]


Penelope Wilhern (Christina Ricci) is a young woman from a wealthy family with all the qualities to make an excellent match for any other well-bred man of her status. What sets her apart is that she has pig-face disorder.

Generations ago, an embittered witch placed a curse on the Wilhern family after their son had an affair with her daughter, one of the Wilhern servants, and, talked out of marrying her by his disapproving family, abandoned her and married someone of his own status. The heartbroken and pregnant servant girl then threw herself off of a cliff. Furious, the witch then cursed the Wilherns so that the next daughter to be born into the affluent family would have the face of a pig. For five generations, the Wilherns produced only sons, until Penelope was born, stricken with the curse. It is said that the curse can only be lifted if 'one of her own' learns to love her, which her parents interpret as meaning that Penelope must marry a man of noble birth.

A tabloid reporter named Lemon (Peter Dinklage) begins stalking the family to get a photograph of the infant Penelope resulting in Penelope's mother making him part blind after he breaks into their house. Then, Penelope's parents, Jessica and Franklin (Catherine O'Hara and Richard E. Grant), decide to fake their daughter's death and cloister her away in their mansion, where Penelope spends her life immersing herself in intellectual pursuits such as literature, horticulture, and music. When Penelope becomes an adult, her parents attempt to introduce her to possible suitors, hoping that one of them will fall in love with her and break the curse, with the help of Wanda, a matchmaker. Unfortunately, every man who lays eyes on her flees in terror, including Edward Humphrey Vanderman III (Simon Woods), a spoiled, arrogant snob who finds her repulsive. Normally, Jake, their majordomo, catches them before they leave, but he fails to catch Vanderman.

Vanderman's panicked flight from the Wilhern house results in a newspaper article dubbing him insane. To redeem his name, Vanderman decides to team up with Lemon in an effort to get a photograph of Penelope. The two of them track down Max Campion (James McAvoy), a young blue blood disowned by his family, who has developed a gambling problem and is in desperate need of money. Lemon and Vanderman pay Max to pose as a new suitor for Penelope, hiding a camera in his jacket so that he can steal a picture of her. After talking to Penelope through a one-way mirror, Max is unexpectedly caught off guard by her sweetness and charm, and Penelope also trusts him enough to show him her face. Though Max is not frightened of Penelope, he accidentally triggers the camera in his jacket, which causes him to retreat. A heartbroken Penelope believes that Max too finds her monstrous, and instead begs him to marry her simply for her status and in order to break the curse. Max, though obviously torn, insists that he cannot marry Penelope. He then calls off his agreement with Lemon and Vanderman, and destroys the camera, realizing that their attempt to exploit Penelope is wrong.

Meanwhile, Penelope, inspired by Max's conversations about the outside world, decides to flee the protection of her parents' home, and journeys out into the city, naive and ignorant about normal life, and with a scarf to cover her face. While at a bar, Penelope ends up befriending a biker chick named Annie (Reese Witherspoon) who becomes her "real world" mentor and best friend. Having no money and seeing that Lemon and Vanderman are offering a reward for a photograph of her, she decides to collect on the reward by producing a photo of herself, essentially coming out of hiding to the public. To her surprise, Penelope becomes an overnight celebrity, flocked by adoring fans who are not disgusted by her face. Penelope's courage in going out to the world then acts as an inspiration for Max, who quits gambling and starts work in an old theatre. Lemon discovers that the man he and Vanderman had recruited to go in to the Wilhern house and photograph Penelope is in fact not Max Campion at all, but a man named Johnny Martin, who simply posed as Campion for the money. Penelope's family wonder whether the only reason "Max" refused to marry Penelope was because he knew that, as a non blue blood, he would not be able to break the curse for her.

Meanwhile, Vanderman's father (Nigel Havers), seeing the public's fondness for Penelope, and embarrassed by his son's vocal cruelty toward her, coerces Edward into proposing to the girl. Penelope nearly marries him, but backs out of the wedding at the last minute when she realises that she does not want to marry simply to break the curse. Though Penelope's mother urges her to marry Vanderman and at last lead a 'normal life', an exasperated Penelope says that she likes herself the way she is. This breaks the curse, as Penelope has at last been loved by 'one of her own kind' - herself - and her pig snout and ears disappear and Jake is revealed to be the witch that cursed the family long ago.

As the months pass, Penelope moves on with her life, becoming a horticulturist and teacher, and the spectacle of her former appearance is gradually forgotten by the public. That Halloween, Penelope finds several of her students dressing up as her old pig self, and dons a 'Penelope' mask as she goes to reunite with Johnny, who she discovers lives nearby. Johnny, not knowing that the curse has been broken, kisses Penelope and apologizes to her, saying that he does not have the power to break the curse. Penelope then reveals that she had the power to lift the curse all along, and the two share a passionate kiss, beginning a romantic relationship.

Later Johnny is happily pushing Penelope on a swing in a garden. On a nearby lake, Lemon rows up in a rowboat, and is about to take a picture revealing to the world what has happened to Penelope, but observes their happiness, and decides to let his obsession go.


Background and production[edit]

The production of Penelope started in 2006 in London and Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire. It premiered at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival.[3] It was also Reese Witherspoon's first film in a producing role along with a small acting role.

The film's screenplay was written by Leslie Caveny. A novelization of the film was written by Marilyn Kaye.

The finished film was caught in limbo for over a year. Originally purchased by The Weinstein Company and IFC Films, it was removed from the release date schedule and eventually dropped by the two studios. Summit Entertainment eventually picked up United States distribution rights.


Critical response[edit]

The film received mixed reviews from critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film 52% based on 126 reviews. The site's consensus reads "though Penelope has a charming cast and an appealing message, it ultimately suffers from faulty narrative and sloppy direction."[4] Metacritic gives the film a weighted average rating of 48%, based on 29 reviews — indicating mixed or average reviews.[5]

Box office[edit]

The film premiered September 8, 2006 at the Toronto International Film Festival. It was also shown at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2007. The film opened in Russia and Ukraine in August 2007. Penelope was released in the United Kingdom on February 1, 2008. It opened in wide release in the United States and Canada on February 29, 2008.

The film opened in ninth place and earned $3.8 million USD on its opening weekend in the United States.[citation needed]

By October 5, 2008, the film had grossed $20.8 million worldwide—with $6.5 million in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Malta.[6]

Home media[edit]

Penelope was released on July 15, 2008 in the United States. It included a 2:35:1 anamorphic widescreen, and an English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track. The extras were a behind-the-scenes featurette, cast and crew, production notes and world-premiere features from the upcoming Summit film Twilight as well as behind-the-scenes features and interviews from the film, released four months later.


Joby Talbot composed the music for the film. A soundtrack album was released.

No. Title Length
1. "The Story of the Curse, Part 1 by Joby Talbot"   3:57
2. "The Story of the Curse, Part 2 by Joby Talbot"   4:58
3. "Waking Life" by Schuyler Fisk"   4:07
4. ""The Piano Song" by Meiko"   2:46
5. ""Penelope Breaks Free" by Joby Talbot"   1:58
6. ""Fairground" by Joby Talbot"   1:31
7. ""Give In" by The Secret 6"   4:46
8. ""Queen of Surface Streets" by DeVotchKa"   5:26
9. ""String of Blinking Lights" by Paper Moon"   4:18
10. ""The Wedding" by Joby Talbot"   4:03
11. ""Ageless Beauty" by Stars"   4:05
12. ""The Kiss" by Joby Talbot"   4:22
13. ""Hoppípolla" by Sigur Rós"   4:15
14. ""Your Disguise" by James Greenspun"   3:09


External links[edit]