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Penelope is a romantic comedy film directed by Mark Palansky with a wide release in 2008. It stars Christina Ricci, James McAvoy and Reese Witherspoon.


Penelope Wilhern is a young woman from a well-bred and wealthy family with all the qualities to make an excellent match for any other well-bred man of her status. However, the one thing that sets her apart is her face, which, in fact, resembles that of a pig. This was a curse set on her family generations ago, and the only way to break the curse is for one of her kind to accept her for what she is.

Generations ago, an embittered witch placed a curse on the Wilhern family because their son had impregnated her daughter, one of their servants. The son offered marriage but his family refused and married him off to another. The witch's daughter, overwrought, threw herself off a cliff. The witch cursed the Wilherns in such a way that would result in the next girl born into the clan having the face of a pig. For generations, only sons were born into the family, until five generations later when Penelope (Christina Ricci) 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 is interpreted by her parents to mean a blueblood -- a person from an established noble family.

When a tabloid reporter named Lemon (Peter Dinklage) begins stalking the family to get a photograph of the infant Penelope, her parents, Jessica (Catherine O'Hara) and Franklin (Richard E. Grant), cloister their daughter away in their mansion, where Penelope spends her life immersing herself in intellectual pursuits such as literature, horticulture and music. Now an adult, Penelope's parents attempt to introduce her to possible rich suitors, hoping that one of them will fall in love with her and break the curse. Unfortunately, every man who lays eyes on the girl takes flight at first sight, never to return, including Edward Humphrey Vanderman III (Simon Woods), a spoiled, cruel-hearted snob who finds her repulsive.

Vanderman's panicked flight from the Wilhern house results in a newspaper article dubbing him unstable. To redeem his name, he teams up with Lemon and the team goes out to find someone who can get into the house for a picture. They mistakenly take Johnny Martin (James McAvoy), an unrepentant gambler with a heavy heart, for a distantly blue-blooded Max Campion (Nick Frost), who agrees to help Lemon and Vanderman snatch a photograph of her for money. When "Max" meets Penelope, however, he is unexpectedly caught off guard by her disarming charm, and decides to renege on his agreement with Lemon and Vanderman, realizing that their attempt to exploit Penelope is repugnant. Penelope, however, interprets Max's ambivalence to mean that he too finds her monstrous. She decides to flee the protection of her parents' home, and journeys out into the city, naive and ignorant of the world from which she has been sequestered her entire life. Having no money, and seeing that Lemon and Vanderman are publicly offering a reward to anyone who can produce 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.

Vanderman's father, seeing the public's fondness for Penelope and embarrassed by his son's vocal cruelty toward her, coerces Edward into proposing to her. Penelope nearly marries him, but backs out of the wedding at the last minute. When her mother urges her to marry him, lest she be forced to spend the rest of her life with her current appearance, Penelope becomes exasperated and says that she likes herself the way she is. As a result, Penelope breaks the curse and her pig snout and ears disappear at last.

Penelope moves on with her life, becoming a horticulturist and teacher, the spectacle of her former appearance forgotten by the public. On the next Halloween, however, she often runs into people wearing masks of herself with a pig nose. At a Halloween costume party at which she wears a mask of her former face, she goes to find Johnny (who lives nearby), who, unaware of her transformation, apologizes for not being able to break her curse, although it is obvious he is still in love with her. After removing her mask and revealing that she had the power to break the curse all along, the two begin a romance.

The film ends with Johnny pushing Penelope on a swing after teaching a horticultural class. Lemon, the reporter, is about to take a picture from a nearby rowboat, but observes their happiness and decides to let his obsession go.


Background and production

The production of Penelope started in 2006 in Londonmarker. According to Internet Movie Database, it was filmed in the United Kingdommarker. It premiered at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival. 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.


The film received mixed reviews from critics. As of February 29, 2008, the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 53% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 108 reviews. Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 48 out of 100, based on 29 reviews — indicating mixed or average reviews. While the film was not immensely popular in theaters, it has since gone on to attain cult status.

Box office

The film premiered September 8, 2006 at the Toronto International Film Festivalmarker. It was also shown at the Cannes Film Festivalmarker in May 2007. The film opened in Russiamarker and Ukrainemarker 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 eighth place and earned $4 million on its opening weekend in the United States.

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

Home media release

Penelope was released on July 15, 2008 in the United Statesmarker. It included a 2:35:1 anamorphic widescreen, and an English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track. The extras were a behind-the-scene featurette 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. Also available was a Target exclusive edition which was a two disc deluxe edition set and exclusive tickets to see four Universal Studios films: Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Mamma Mia!, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor and Death Race.


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

Track listing
  1. "The Story of the Curse, Pt. 1" by Joby Talbot – 3:57
  2. "The Story of the Curse, Pt. 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


  1. Penelope Filming Location-IMDB
  2. 2006 TIFF Film list
  3. Penelope Cast and Crew
  4. 'Semi-Pro' Scores $15M, Tops Box Office

External links

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