I love fairy tales. From the Grimm brothers—who killed Snow White’s evil step-monster by making her dance-til-she-died in “red-hot iron shoes” at Snow’s wedding—to the comparatively kinder and gentler Disney Classics, the material is always ripe for a unique twist. Although TV is relatively new to the fairy-tale-themed party, arriving with last season’s breakout hit (and personal favorite of mine) Once Upon a Time (ABC), chick flicks hopped on the fairy tale bandwagon years ago, yielding movies like Ella Enchanted (2004), A Cinderella Story (2004), and Sydney White (2007).
In today’s Quickie, I’d like to recommend another: Penelope. Directed by Mark Palansky and written by Leslie Caveny, Penelope (2006, PG, 104 min.) stars Christina Ricci, Catherine O’Hara, James McAvoy, Richard E. Grant, Michael Feast, Ronni Ancona, Simon Woods, and Peter Dinklage, with appearances by Reese Witherspoon and Russell Brand.
Penelope (Ricci) is the hapless victim of the Wilhern family curse—a gift from the town witch five generations before that causes Penelope to be “born with the face of a pig,” and is breakable “only when one of [their] own kind claims this daughter as their own, till death do they part.” Imprisoned at home by her mother (O’Hara), Penelope’s ticket to the outside is finding ‘the one’ who can break the curse. After years of rejection by each suitor to whom she has revealed herself, Penelope’s hopes begin to wane. And then she meets Max (McAvoy). Will he be her knight in shining armor?
Penelope is both like and unlike the chick flicks mentioned above. Like them, it is also a fairy tale dressed in chick-flick clothing. Unlike them, however, its background story/starting point is not tied to *one* fairy tale in particular…at least not one that I’m familiar with. Rather, it combines common fairy tale elements—a magical world, a cursed ‘princess’ in need of Prince Charming-type, an overbearing and controlling parent/guardian, and meddling ‘villains’—and modernizes them in a manner that is inventive enough to make old tropes seem new and different.
The movie’s structural creativity is bolstered by the solid performances of its talented cast. Ricci’s Penelope is as charming and lovable as anyone’s favorite Disney princess—you’ll root for her happy ending from the moment you meet her. And O’Hara’s domineering and matrimony-mad matriarch would give Pride and Prejudice‘s Mrs. Bennet a run for her money.
When next in need of the kind of emotional catharsis that only a good chick flick can provide, I encourage you, my dear Readers, to choose Penelope. By the “happily ever after,” your faith in the omnipotent power of love—be it self-love, love for another, or both—will be stronger than ever.
Penelope is available on Amazon (DVD and Instant Video).
Want more chick flicks?
First, check out previous This Chick’s Flicks pieces.
Then, stay tuned to Screen Invasion for This Chick’s Flicks posts on chick flicks of now and then.
Penelope poster image: © 2006 – Summit Entertainment. || This Chick’s Flicks logo: © 2012 Kristal Bailey.