Penelope: A Modern-Day Fairy Tale

Posted April 22, 2016 by Carlisa in Fairy Tale Fridays / 5 Comments

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Yaaaay, I’m back in action with some Fairy Tale Fridays! I’ve been meaning to write on this topic for a while…because I love, love, love this movie. And by “this movie,” I mean Penelope. If you haven’t seen it, you need to. It just makes my heart happy every time I watch it. So let’s just start with a basic plot summary, and then we’ll get into the nitty-gritty of what I want to talk about today.

Plot Summary of Penelope

Basically, Penelope is about a girl named Penelope…but we kind of have to start before she was born. Generations ago, one of her Wilhern ancestors had an affair with one of his servants and, with encouragements from his family, he left her—pregnant. And did I mention her mother was a creepy witch lady? #Karma. Soooo creepy witch lady, also known as angry and vengeful mother, cursed the Wilhern family so that the next daughter would be born with a pig face. And years later, Penelope—the first Wilhern daughter for a long time—is born. With, you guessed it, a pig face. And when I say “pig face,” this is what I mean:

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Oh, I forgot to mention. The only way to break the curse is if “one of her own kind” comes to love her. So basically, her life has been her parents trying to find a boy from a rich family (one of her kind) to love her. And then the movie kind of about her finding herself—pig face and all.

And, sure, it’s a cheese-fest. But it’s so fun and happy and colorful and cute and makes me all sorts of fuzzy inside. Sooo, erm, yeah. Go watch it now, please.

James McAvoy Appreciation Section

Because James McAvoy is perfection. I also recently watched Becoming Jane, so maybe I’m just feeling a little McAvoy-crazy, but I love him. And he’s starring in this movie, so let’s just take a moment out of our busy and hectic day to give him the appreciate he deserves.

penelope1 penelope2 penelope3 penelope4 penelope5 THAT SMILE. If you weren’t convinced to watch this movie after my riveting plot summary, I’m 100% sure you’re already on your way to check it out after that smile. *Wistful sigh*

Some Honorable Mentions: Reese Witherspoon and the actor who plays Charles Bingley in the Kiera Knightley version of Pride and Prejudice. Oh, I also found out that the actress who plays Penelope, Christina Ricci, is little Wednesday from the Addam’s Family (*snap snap*).

The Modern Day Fairytale

This is why I like this movie so much; it’s very much set in a modern world. It was filmed in England, but they never really distinguish a setting. Most of them speak with an American accent, but some (like aforementioned Charles Bingley…or Simon Woods if you go by his real name [but he will always be Charles Bingley to me]) speak with a British. Maybe that’s something that I like about it: it’s modern and feels real, but it’s still kind of its own place. There isn’t a set city or town it’s supposed to take place in, so we can kind of build on and imagine a new little world.

And it’s modern, but it’s magical. We have the curse that’s lasted throughout decades and perhaps centuries, and we have a girl determined to beat it. And so there’s magic. It’s not super prevalent. Like, no one’s waving a magic wand around and casting spells. But it’s there. And I think part of the magical feeling is its whimsy and light feeling.

And, like in most fairy tales, there’s a good message. This is where it gets a little cheese-bally, but I think it’s nice. I want to talk about the ending here, but alas, I won’t spoil the movie for you. But let me just say, men ain’t everything, sista. 

And finally, it has those classic fairy tale elements that we all know and love. (1) The main girl leaves her sheltered life to go out into the world and find herself. Ahem, Tangled or Enchanted (another great modern fairy tale) or Cinderella or basically every fairy tale story ever. (2) There’s the rough-around-the-edges male protagonist who is also oh-so-handsome (refer to previous section).

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(3) The magical curse. ‘Nough said. (4) The friends that she makes along the way. Reese Witherspoon makes a great friend, let me tell you. (5) The happily ever after. This is probably the most important because it gives it that true “fairy tale” feeling. It’s just so happy and fuzzy and squishy and warm and happily-ever-after-y. It’s perfect. Just likes James McAvoy.

Basically…Watch the movie

If you like fairy tale things, you’ll like this movie, I promise you. And I bought it for just a couple dollars on Amazon, so you can probably find it even cheaper to rent, I would think (#flashbackfriday to when it used to be on streaming Netflix). But watch it. Okay? Okay.


  • It has been a while since I have watched Penelope, but I still remember how much I love it! It was different from all of the other fairytales at the time, with the pig nose and everything. I also loved how it broke from the traditional trope of the girl marrying the rich boy just because. Penelope was one of my first role models because she had the bravery to go out into the world by herself and eventually love herself for who she is, pig nose and all.
    I love all of the modern day fairytales that have been coming out, including Penelope and Enchanted. I wish that Hollywood would stop remaking the same fairytales over and over again and do something more creative like Penelope.
    I am so excited that you are doing Fairytale Friday again by the way!

    • Yeah, I really love Penelope. It’s just happy and cheering and fun. And I totally agree with you about breaking the traditional trope. They love each other for their heart and not for their money or position, and that’s wonderful.

      And yes, it would be wonderful to have newer creative fairy tale movies, but I personally really enjoy the remakes as well. Remakes are fun because they add a twist to such a classic and well-known tale.

      And thank you! I’m excited too; I just need to make sure I keep thinking of new post ideas. Let me know if you have any!

  • UMMM! I’ve never heard of this movie. I want to watch it now, though! Christina Ricci! Yes! Have you watched Now and Then? I love that one with her. I’m happy you’re back!

    • SARAH! You have to watch this movie; I’m like 30509382% sure you’ll love it.

      I’ve never even heard of Now and Then…what’s it about?

  • I adore this film. It’s a fairytale, but looks so far beyond that, which is what makes it lovely. 🙂