Penelope (2006 film)

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Penelope Poster 2.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMark Palansky
Written byLeslie Caveny
Produced byReese Witherspoon
Scott Steindorff
Dylan Russell
Jennifer Simpson
StarringChristina Ricci
James McAvoy
Catherine O'Hara
Peter Dinklage
Richard E. Grant
Reese Witherspoon
CinematographyMichel Amathieu
Edited byJon Gregory
Music byJoby Talbot
Distributed byMomentum Pictures (United Kingdom)
Summit Entertainment (United States)
Release dates
  • September 8, 2006 (2006-09-08) (TIFF)
  • February 1, 2008 (2008-02-01) (United Kingdom)
  • February 29, 2008 (2008-02-29) (United States)
Running time
104 minutes
CountriesUnited Kingdom
United States
Budget$15 million
Box office$21.2 million[1]

Penelope is a 2006 British-American fantasy romantic comedy film directed by Mark Palansky and starring Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, Catherine O'Hara, Peter Dinklage, Richard E. Grant, and Reese Witherspoon (who also produced the movie).[2] The film details about a girl who is born with the nose of a pig due to a curse that was placed on her family by a vengeful witch.


A pregnant servant woman named Clara commits suicide after the family of a wealthy socialite, Ralph Wilhern, disapproved of their marriage. In revenge, Clara's witch mother cursed the next Wilhern daughter to be born with the face of a pig. The curse can only be lifted when "one of her own kind" learns to love her. For generations, only sons were born into the family, until Penelope (Christina Ricci) is born as the first true-blooded pig-faced daughter. To prevent publicity of Penelope's face, her mother Jessica (Catherine O'Hara) faked her daughter's death and shut her away in their mansion. When Penelope turned 18, her parents interpret the curse's counter as the love of a man of similar social status.

For the next seven years, Penelope and her family go through several possible suitors, but all of them flee in terror, including Edward Humphrey Vanderman III (Simon Woods). He works with tabloid reporter Lemon (Peter Dinklage) to photograph Penelope's face. They pay the young blue blood Max Campion (James McAvoy) to pose as a new suitor for Penelope, hiding a camera in his jacket. After having conversations with Penelope through a one-way mirror, Max and Penelope develop genuine feelings for each other; however, when Max sees her face, he is shocked (but not frightened) and accidentally triggers the camera. Regretful about his attempts to exploit Penelope, Max calls off his agreement with Lemon and Vanderman (though Jessica and matchmaker Wanda catch him doing so) and destroys the camera. Penelope tells Max that if they marry the curse will lift but Max sadly declines.

Finally having had enough of the match-making and inspired by Max's conversations about the outside world, Penelope flees home and journeys out into the city, selling photos of herself to Lemon to prove her existence to the world while using a scarf to cover her nose to keep anonymous. She is spotted by her parents and runs back to the bar she frequents, subsequently passing out, leading her friend Annie (Reese Witherspoon) to remove Penelope's scarf and reveal her as the elusive Penelope to the other guests. Penelope becomes an overnight celebrity, gaining adoring fans who are not disgusted by her face.

Meanwhile, Vanderman's father, having seen the public's fondness for Penelope and embarrassed by his son's vocal cruelty toward her, coerces Edward into proposing to her. Lemon eventually discovers that the man he and Vanderman recruited to photograph Penelope is not the real Max Campion, but actually Johnny Martin, after the real Campion (Nick Frost) is imprisoned for armed robbery. Lemon conveys Johnny's true identity and feelings for Penelope to Jessica and Wanda, but Jessica chooses not to let Penelope know the truth. During the wedding ceremony, Penelope realizes that she does not want to marry simply to break the curse, despite her mother's desperate wishes; she reasons that she likes herself the way she is. This breaks the curse, as Penelope has been loved by "one of her own kind" – herself – and her pig snout and ears disappear.

Penelope moves on and becomes an elementary school horticulture teacher, and the public's interest in her dissipates. She eventually learns from Wanda the truth about "Max Campion" / Johnny Martin. She reunites with Johnny, who is still unaware the curse was broken, at a Halloween party while wearing a pig mask. After an awkward reunion between the two, Johnny kisses Penelope. Penelope then takes off her mask and reveals she had the power to lift the curse all along, and the two begin a romantic relationship. Jake, the Wilhern butler, mute Jessica for how she treated Penelope. He then revealed to be Clara's witch mother who cast the original curse. Lemon is also seen discreetly watching Johnny and Penelope at a park and is tempted to take a photo of them to prove that Penelope's curse has been lifted. He ultimately decides against it.


  • Christina Ricci as Penelope Wilhern, a girl who was born with the face of a pig
    • Andi Marie-Townsend portrays a younger Penelope Wilhern
  • James McAvoy as John "Johnny" Martin, a man who uses the alias of "Max Campion"
    • Nick Frost plays the real Max Campion, a man who was cut off from his family due to his gambling problems
  • Catherine O'Hara as Jessica Wilhern, the mother of Penelope
  • Peter Dinklage as Lemon, a tabloid reporter who plans to reveal Penelope's existence
  • Richard E. Grant as Franklin Wilhern, the father of Penelope
  • Reese Witherspoon as Annie, a delivery girl who befriends Penelope
  • Ronni Ancona as Wanda, a matchmaker
  • Simon Woods as Edward Humphrey Vanderman III, a former suitor of Penelope who allies with Lemon
  • Nigel Havers as Edward Vanderman II, the father of Edward Vanderman III
  • Burn Gorman as Larry
  • Russell Brand as Sam
  • John Voce as Duty Cop
  • Lenny Henry as Krull
  • Richard Leaf as Jack, the bartender of a bar which is frequented by Annie
  • Michael Feast as Jake, a butler who works for the Wilhern family
    • Michael Feast also portrays the true form of the Witch who cursed the Wilhern family

Background and production[edit]

The production of Penelope started in January 2006 in London and Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire. The film's screenplay was written by Leslie Caveny. A novelization of the film was written by Marilyn Kaye. It premiered at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival.[3] It was also Reese Witherspoon's first film in a producing role along with a small acting role. Shortly after, IFC Films acquired U.S. distribution rights to the film, with The Weinstein Company handling the home media and television distribution, with a planned mid-2007 release.[4] Summit Entertainment eventually picked up United States distribution rights.[5]


Critical response[edit]

The film received mixed reviews from critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film 53% based on 128 reviews. The site's consensus reads "Though Penelope has a charming cast and an appealing message, it ultimately suffers from faulty narrative and sloppy direction."[6] Metacritic gives the film a weighted average rating of 48%, based on 29 reviews — indicating mixed or average reviews.[7]

Box office[edit]

The film premiered September 8, 2006 at the Toronto International Film Festival. It was also shown at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2007. The film opened in Russia and Ukraine 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 ninth place and earned $3.8 million USD on its opening weekend in the United States.[citation needed]

By October 5, 2008, the film had grossed $20.8 million worldwide—with $6.5 million in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Malta.[8]

Home media[edit]

Penelope was released on July 15, 2008 in the United States. It included a 2:35:1 anamorphic widescreen, and an English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround track. The extras were a behind-the-scenes featurette, cast and crew, production notes 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. Only the German Blu-Ray version of the film, released in 2011, carries the full 104 minute version of the film. US and UK releases of the film are all the edited 88/89 minute cut.


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

1."The Story of the Curse, Part 1 by Joby Talbot"3:57
2."The Story of the Curse, Part 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". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-02-23.
  2. ^ Holden, Stephen (February 29, 2008). "Cursed With a Face Only a Sow Could Love". The New York Times.
  3. ^ 2006 TIFF Film list
  4. ^ Goldstein, Gregg (October 17, 2006). "IFC will bring 'Penelope' to North America". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  5. ^ McNary, Dave (September 5, 2007). "Summit picks up rights to 'Penelope'". Variety. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  6. ^ "Penelope (2006)". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 2021-07-01.
  7. ^ "Penelope (2008): Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2021-07-01.
  8. ^ "Penelope (2008) – International Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-04-27.

External links[edit]