So yesterday it was Saturday, a day in which the girls and boys don their glad rags and dress themselves divine. My sister was going out, my mother was going out, and I had the house to myself. So I did something that I haven’t done for a while. I sat down with a punnet of raspberries and a little DVD that I’ve loved since the age of about nine.
And it’s called Penelope
This isn’t a film that seems to get very much recognition, its rating son rotten tomatoes average and the treatment of it as a bit of “filler” film, sweet fluff for nine year old girls. But, in my humble opinion, it is so, so much more than that.
It’s about a girl who was born with a nose of a pig, due to a curse placed on her family by a vengeful witch. The only way to break the curse is to be loved by “one of her own kind”, which her mother interprets as being about blue bloods, or aristocrats. Penelope is prepared throughout her life to marry an aristocrat and thus break the curse, and be free of the nose.
It’s a tale about identity, self-hatred, being trapped and breaking free (feel the cheese, guys).
The what I suppose you would call love interest is a disheveled, drawn, tired-eyed addicted (probably alocholic) gambler who is paid to get a picture of Penelope by a reporter. Penelope’s parents, particularly the mother, treat her with an affectionate kind of intelorance, teaching her to say “This is not my nose, this is my great-great grandfather’s nose and I’m not him and he’s not me, and I’m not me.”
The thing I really love about Penelope is its craft and creation. It seems to take place in a fantasy world, pretty much ours but with more magic and more flexibiltiy of time and geography. There are cameras that look like they belong to a Victorian steampunk novel, ’50s cars and telephones, private detectives and newspaper offices straight out of the thirties. There are casinos in what look like churches, a fun fair of blinking lighs, bubbles and magics, there are street fairs with flowers on the walls and punks with Mohawks owning patisseries. There are incredibly beautiful stately-home like buildings, warehouse apartments stylishly sprsely furnished, brightly coloured cute clothes of buttons and stripes, a city which could be either London or New York and so ends up being not quite either, there is Russel Brand owning a night-club and James McAvoy playing a piano, there are parks with massive trees, tiny pianos and indoor wooden swings, there are plants in glass containers and Reece Witherspoon on a vespa, there is a man with an eye-patch and a witch in sneakers, a wedding dress that I swear I’m one day going to base my own on and the best bedroom I have ever seen.
It’s this lovely escapism made with beautiful props and set in a world that I just want to jump head-first into and a story that weaves its way around my heart. It’s a film I’ve watched time and time again and each time I get something just a tiny bit different from it. It’s just… magic. Pure and simple. I want to fill a bath with it and live in it, and just underneath it all there is this beautiful, beautiful message: