troperville

tools

toys

Wiki Headlines
We've switched servers and will be updating the old code over the next couple months, meaning that several things might break. Please report issues here.

main index

Narrative

Genre

Media

Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
random
Film: Penelope
The movie was shipped to some theatres under the code-name Scarfy

Penelope is a 2006 Romantic Comedy film directed by Mark Palansky with a wide release in 2008. It stars Christina Ricci and James McAvoy as the romantic leads, with supporting characters played Peter Dinklage, Simon Woods, Catherine O'Hara and Reese Witherspoon (Who received primary billing, despite a relatively minor role).

Loosely based off the legend of the Pig-Faced Woman, the film is a reconstruction of the classic Fairy Tale. It follows the story a child of wealthy parents cursed with the face of a pig until she is accepted by "one of her own", which both she and her parents interpret to mean a marriage to somebody of her own social class. She is kept in seclusion in her parent's house her entire life, her very existence a secret after her parents faked her death as an infant in order to avoid the paparazzi, and she is trained in the arts and sciences to make her the perfect prospective bride. After seven years of fruitless searching for a blue-blood suitor who will remain in the same room for even a moment after seeing her pig face, Penelope (Christina Ricci) has resigned herself to being in this state forever and she (and her father) believe that it is time to move on with her life and accept the fact that this curse might never be broken. When one final suitor (James McAvoy) seems to form a genuine emotional attachment to Penelope, only to also refuse to marry her after she reveals herself to him, Penelope flees her home and begins to live her life for the first time in the real world, making friends and enjoying the world which she had only ever seen through the windows of her room.

After being produced in 2006 the film was stuck in Release Hell, unable to find a distributor for several years after the movie had been completed. Eventually, Summit Entertainment purchased distribution rights in the United States for a 2008 release. Suffering financially, the North American gross barely covered its production costs and critical reception was mixed, split almost 50/50 on positivie and negative reviews. Nonetheless, the film has a unique style and visual feel, evocative both of classic fairy tales and modern cinema styles, and the performances of its cast blend perfectly with their roles.

Penelope contains examples of:

  • Bar Slide: When discussing just what she is missing out of life by remaining sheltered, Max says that Penelope has never really had a beer until she has had one on tap. One of the first things she does out in the world is ask for a beer on tap, which the barman gladly slides down the bar for her.....and which she watches go right off the end and shatter on the floor. Thankfully the barkeep is a friendly sort, so he passes her another after explaining that she is supposed to catch it.
  • Beast and Beauty: Deconstructed. While Penelope is the one with the disfigurement, Lemon specifically refers to the picture of her and Edward as "Penelope and the Beast" because he is so reprehensible.
  • The Bechdel Test: Passes. Annie and Penelope talk about all sorts of things. Penelope and her mom talk about her appearance both pertaining to marriage but also just pertaining to Penelope's self-image.
  • Becoming the Mask: Max is hired to pose as a suitor in order to get a picture of Penelope for a tabloid, but gradually begins to fall for her.
  • Beta Couple: Annie and Jack the Bartender engage in some light flirting and banter when they are together without Penelope.
  • Big Fancy House
  • Broken Aesop: The film has essentially the same problem as Beauty and the Beast — once she learns to accept her own appearance as an ugly person with a pig nose, she transforms into an attractive Christina Ricci.
  • Butt Monkey: Edward brings a lot of it on himself given his vendetta against Penelope, but he is lambasted by the police and the press for having a nervous breakdown when he tries to tell people about Penelope. Everything he does afterwards, either to prove that she exists or talking about her, makes him look worse and worse to everybody around him.
  • Curse: Breaking the Hereditary Curse is what all the action hinges on. Penelope's mom gets one of her own after she still doesn't get the curse's moral despite some explaining.
  • Curse Escape Clause: The curse will last until Penelope is accepted by "one of her own" until "death do they part". Since that specific phrase is part of a traditional wedding vow, and the situation all started because Ralph Wilhern refused to marry the witch's daughter, Penelope's parents believe that the curse will be broken the instant Penelope is married to a blue blood. It is ultimately broken by Penelope herself when she accepts herself, since she is certainly part of her own class and will not be parted from herself until death.
  • Cute Monster Girl: Penelope is absolutely adorable, even with the pig nose and ears. This is acknowledged even within the movie, when Lemon cannot reconcile the adorable pictures of Penelope with the monstrous description Edward had given him.
  • Design Student's Orgasm: Penelope's room looks like it came straight from an Anthropologie store, as does her clothes. The film as a whole, really.
  • Disturbed Doves: When Penelope runs away.
  • Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: Jack, the bartender, is credited as Jack the Bartender.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Lemon wears an eyepatch over his right eye after Penelope's mother knocked it out when he tried to get a picture of her as a baby.
  • Eye Scream: Penelope's mother knocked out Lemon's right eye when he popped out of a cupboard to take a photo of the baby Penelope.
  • Faking the Dead: When the paparazzi harassed the family after she was born, Penelope's mother faked her death (And had the 'remains' cremated) to keep her a secret.
  • Fictional Document: Penelope owns a first-edition copy of George Rockham's novel The Dreamer, which is her favorite book and which she re-reads during the film. This is neither a real book nor a real author.
  • Foreshadowing: When Lemon goes to recruit Max Campion into the scheme, the cashier points out the man at the poker table as Max walks towards them, while an unnamed character picks up his chips from the ground in the background. The character picking up his chips is actually Max Campion, hinted at by the camera lingering on him for a few seconds as the other Max walks towards the camera.
  • For Halloween, I Am Going as Myself: Penelope goes to visit "Max" on Halloween, wearing... a pig mask. While little girls go trick-or-treating in her old outfit no less.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar
    Franklin Wilhern: She's finding his instrument
    Jessica Wilhern: Isn't that something a man should do for himself?
  • Heel Realization: As the movie progresses, Lemon begins to question his pursuit of the pig girl and what he is trying to accomplish. After Penelope sells him her own pictures and he sees that she is just a vulnerable young woman he tries to talk Edward out of publicizing them and stops his own pursuit. He ultimately reveals to the Wilhern family all the details of what he and Edward had done, and even attempts to apologize to Jessica about the way he had stalked them years before (Although Jessica's abrasiveness makes it had for him to get the apology out). The final scene of the movie has him again following Penelope for one last picture, but he instead puts the camera away and floats away.
  • Hired to Hunt Yourself: Penelope takes pictures of herself and sells them to the tabloid in order to finance living on her own. Lemon is understandably perplexed, and her willingness to do so (And the vulnerable young woman her pictures reveal) are where he begins to question his lifelong hunt for the 'monster'.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Max Campion is known to have gambled away his family's vast fortune in only a few years. That is true for Max Campion, but James McAvoy is not playing Max Campion. Max is actually the other guy at the table sitting next to him.
  • Informed Flaw: The curse is described as giving Penelope the face of a pig, but all that she gets is the nose and ears. The ears themselves are often covered by her hairstyle, and are only visible on Christina Ricci in a single scene.
  • It Was with You All Along: After all of the angst about finding a proper suitor, it turns out Penelope could have broken the curse at any time, by simply accepting herself as she was.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Jessica, Penelope's mother, is generally overbearing and annoying throughout the movie, and is clearly more focused on how Penelope's condition affects her rather than Penelope. However, when Lemon approaches her with information she bluntly points out that his actions, and the consequences (Including the loss of his eye), were his own fault and responsibility. Lemon is clearly annoyed to the point of frustration at her attitude and rude dismissal, but he does not argue since he has already realized that he had acted improperly.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Max's decision to leave his poker game, even though he still has chips left, indicates that his character has changed.
  • Magic Realism: The curse on Penelope is the only supernatural element to the movie, and even that is only explained by a family legend that is a century old. Lemon explicitly states that he does not even believe in the curse (Presumably attributing Penelope's appearance to a normal, if tragic, birth abnormality) and seems to regard the entire concept as farcical, even laughing when Max mentions lifting the curse.
  • Mock Millionaire: Max Campion has gambled away his family fortune, but Lemon hires him to pose as a suitor in order to get a picture of Penelope. It turns out that "Max" is double-Mock, as the guy Lemon hired is not even Max Campion at all, but is an average guy named Johnny who was sitting next to Max at the poker table.
  • Moving the Goalposts: Played for Laughs when Max and Penelope are discussing everything she is missing by remaining shut inside. He is shocked that she has never had a beer, but she protests that she has had a beer, and he explains that if it is not on tap then it is not a real beer.
  • No Antagonist: There is no "villain" to the movie. Lemon and Edward are adversarial, but much of the plot would happen without them, and both are ultimately not "defeated" in any way.
  • Not Hyperbole: Several characters mistake the description of Penelope as a pig to be metaphorical, either as a general indication that she is ugly or that she is fat. This leads to a lot of shock and surprise when they discover that she looks like an actual pig.
  • Pig.. uh, Girl.
  • Poker: Lemon originally finds Max Campion at a poker table, and his play style is often used as an indication of his character. Originally he is described as not knowing when to quit, and once even himself remarks that he had to keep playing because he still had chips. When he is shown later leaving the poker table when he still has chips left it signifies the change in his character.
  • Protagonist Title
  • Punished with Ugly: An interesting case, since Penelope isn't the one who caused the curse of ugliness, she inherited it. Her mother obviously thinks she is the one being cursed.
  • Purely Aesthetic Era / Retro Universe: The movie appears to be set in the same colorful non-indicative universe as Pushing Daisies and Babe.
  • Reconstruction: The film is a reconstruction of the Fairy Tale Princess genre as a whole, which in recent years has undergone a minor deconstruction with many films placing emphasis on the unstated problems in the Damsel in Distress genre of men rescuing women. Placed under a curse that everyone believes can only be broken by a marriage, the daughter of wealthy socialites looks for a man to rescue her. However, since they are only looking for blue-blood suitors all the prospective men are spoiled, self-indulged jerks who immediately judge her on her appearance and react out of fear and concern for how the situation will affect them. It is only when Penelope comes to terms with herself that her curse is lifted, and she unites with her love-interest after she essentially rescues herself.
  • The Reveal: "Max" is actually Johnny Martin, a son of a plumber whom Lemon had mistaken for Max Campion because they had been at the same poker table. The reason Johnny had declined Penelope's marriage proposal was because he knew that, as a non-blue blood, he did not have the power to break the curse.
  • Runaway Bride: Penelope, at the end, to her fiance's great relief.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Edward Vanderman tries to bond with Penelope over the concept, pointing out that his good looks, respected family name and hereditary fortune mean that people expect certain things of him and force him into their own preconceptions, just like her appearance gets people to react to her a certain way. You can tell by her voice that Penelope is taking what he says with a heavy dose of skepticism and doubt, but she does give him the chance to live down to her expectations. Once he sees that the term "pig" is not metaphorical (I.e. just being ugly) he, like all the suitors before, panics and runs screaming from the house.
  • Spinning Paper: One of the few modern works to use this trope.
  • Super Window Jump: Penelope's suitors are so shocked by her appearance that they normally jump out the closest window in a panic after she reveals herself. This happened so frequently that her mother had to install shatter-proof glass!
  • Sweet and Sour Grapes: When Penelope finally accepts herself and her nose, the curse is lifted. Like make-over movies, the character may accept the "ugly" them but still get to keep the beautiful version. The movie ends with several kids guessing the moral, like "rich people stink", concluding that "it's not the power of the curse, it's the power you give the curse". A fair aesop, but the curse is still broken instead of lived with.
PathogenFilms of 2005 - 2009 Perfume
The Paper Bag PrincessFairy TalePeter Pan

alternative title(s): Penelope
random
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy
26516
41