Friday, September 11, 2009

Penelope



First, I just want to point out how much I absolutely adore Netflix's Watch it Now service. Now that I have a television I can hook up directly to my computer, I have watched quite a few hours of great movies and television without having to wait for a disc. My only complaint is that I have to run it in IE rather than Firefox.

Now that my fangirl moment is out of the way, I'll get to Penelope, after one brief tangent.

I'm currently enrolled in an editing class. Our current assignment is to cut a trailer for a film, so last week we watched several trailers and discussed how they were or were not successful. When the trailers for Penelope were coming on television, I thought I'd like to see it. It looked like a fun little whimsical fairy tale, and I just knew it would be a love story with a happy ending. Let's face it, I'm a sucker for a love story with a happy ending.

Now, in an attempt to find the trailers that I watched that made me want to see the film I just found the "extended trailer" which basically includes the entire plot of the film, and isn't nearly as fun and certainly wouldn't have made me want to go see the movie. If you have to give away the ending of your movie in the trailer, then how much faith do you have in your actual movie? Maybe film students are different from most viewers, but most people I know can tell if the trailer gives away the end and really resent it.

Anyway, all of that aside. I didn't watch that trailer until just now, and I did watch the good ones. So I watched the film the other night and I have to say I greatly enjoyed it. Don't get me wrong, the film had flaws, and some major ones at that. But I was willing to just let all of that go and enjoy the ride.

The biggest flaw, really, is the story. There's not enough of it there, and what is there isn't as well drawn as it could be. The film landed a huge coupe when they cast James McAvoy and they certainly underutilized him. In fact, almost every character is underdone. It's just not a character driven piece, in the end. I think that works against the film with current audiences, though I don't know that it was trying to be so much more than it was.

The problem is that once in a while, with a line here or there, a moment, an expression, the film transcends it's silly fairy tale treatment. When Penelope tries to explain to her mother how she's feeling, the writing becomes heartwrenching, if a little exposition heavy. I know I'm going to keep coming back to James McAvoy but in the end he has some of the finest acting I've ever seen. He says more with a pained look than some actors can in a whole monologue. And the end...I try not to spoil endings, but I must say that I think anybody who likes romance or love stories needs to watch the film, if for no other reason than to see the next to last scene.

I think that the art director and costume designer for the film deserve praise. They've created a setting that exists everywhere and nowhere at once. If the film is intended to be set in a specific place then I couldn't figure out where it was. It felt like New York City and London at the same time. Penelope's clothes were delightful, and everything looks beautiful. The only thing I can say is that Christina Ricci is almost too adorable in her pig nose, but I forgive everyone's overreaction to it as part of the sort of oversaturated screwball world that they live in.

It's a good little film. I think most people who like fairy tales, love stories, or quirky comedies will enjoy it. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to add everything James McAvoy has ever done to my queue.

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