Sunday, January 25, 2009

movei: penelope

Yay for modern fairytales!

This one has Christina Ricci as an hieress who's been cursed in the sort of situation that is apparently unslightly but not unheard-of: she's got a pig nose. The curse can only be lifted by unconditional acceptance by one of her own, so this is interpreted to mean that she needs to get married. She's been meeting eligible upper-class boys through a one-way mirror, and so far, even the ones who liked her as a disembodied voice run off screaming in fear when they see her not-that-terrible piggynose. And she's getting a little fed up.

Meanwhile, there's this dwarf with one eye from where he was attacked trying to get pictures of baby Penelope years and years ago, and they've faked her death to keep the tabloids off, so all these rich boys have to sign paperwork saying they won't talk, and the tabloids are getting fed up with not having any real solid info. Enter Blondy McAwfulpants who teams up with him to find a down-and-out blueblood to pay off for pictures. And then enter pretty pretty James McAvoy as said chump / Max in something similar to the agreement of Heath Ledger in Ten Things I Hate About You, though this is less with the bitchiness and more with the exaggerated 'deformity'. They hit it off when he's distracted and doesn't see her showing everyone what she looks like, so he doesn't run away. He tries to steal her favorite book out of all the books available, all of which are expensive first editions. And he comes back. Even after he's seen her nose. And keeps coming back until he deels bad about selling pictures of her, calls off the deal, and ditches.

She's crushed and rejected, but doesn't want to do this again, so she runs away, and even knowing very little about the world, manages to do pretty well for herself by being sweet and lovely and friendly. She makes friends with a grouchy bartender and a sassy delivery girl / Reece Witherspoon. And she exposes herself. Pretty quickly, too, though the movie says it's been weeks. Either way, people like her already, so it's less of a big deal than it could be, and she's suddenly very popular. 

While she's having adventures, Max is trying to get himself back together and gives up gambling, gives up drinking, and gets a real job before turning back to music, which he'd given up at some point in the past. He left telling her he couldn't marry her, which she takes to mean he can't deal with her nose, when he really meant that he didn't have the power to help her. 

She eventually comes home and agrees to marry Blondy McAwfulpants, who's basically been told he has no choice and tells her he's had a change of heart, but when they get to the actual wedding, she says 'no' and runs back to her room. Her mother's trying to get her to break the curse, and she says she's fine with who she is-- and the curse is broken. She's  one of her kind. So then her mom feels bad that she didn't love her unconditionally, which would have broken the curse right away (and still tries to tell her how to improve herself), and she finds herself in posession of a normal life. She starts teaching kindergarteners. And after a while, there's a Halloween party and Annie drags her up to where Max lives, and since she's wearing a mask, he doesn't know it's her. He's packing up to move, and as she's asking him questions and commenting on things, he figures it out and there's a really great grab-and-kiss before he knows that her curse is broken. 

And then they live happily ever after.

It's really adorable, without being at all sappy or insipid-- she's a strong, interesting character, and everyone else is clearly-defined and very much their own, even if the world goes a little more smoothly than the real world goes and there's never really any danger to it. I love that here's this classic cursed-princess, and she takes control of her own fate, selling her own pictures to the tabloid when her family-funds wear thin, and finding her own life in the world. And I love that the prince is broken and sad, and not really a prince at all, but still turns out to be the exact right one for her. And I love the way she's pert and smart and sharp in a way fairytale princesses rarely get to be, and he's tense and sexy and conflicted the way princes rarely get to be. It's great, and fun and sweet, and just enough different that it's worth watching again and again, and I think it could grow up with you. 

I do not love lovely Burn Gorman putting on the worst American Accent I've heard in years, though the very fact that he's in here makes me happy.

Plus, it's fun getting James McAvoy-induced whiplash when you think he went from Mr Tumnus to Wanted to Penelope in just a few years, and with other, more serious and more fluffy things in between.

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