Penelope has landed

Penelope finally comes back to Toronto


It's one of the nasty realities of Hollywood: sometimes, great movies get lost in the deal-making shuffle. Mark Palansky's feature film debut, Penelope, premiered at the 2006 Toronto International Film Festival, only to sit on the shelf for the next year and a half after its distributing studio, IFC, decided not to put it out there.

This sort of thing happens all the time with movies lacking an obvious marketing angle, or with movies that just aren't that good; Penelope might qualify for the former, but certainly not the latter. In this case, the protracted delay in release happened because IFC's mission statement changed shortly after purchasing the film, when they decided to focus their efforts on marketing smaller independent films.

Penelope, which stars Christina Ricci in an adorable modern-day fairy tale about a girl with the nose of a pig, was shoved from release date to release date until Seville Pictures scored the distrbution deal to get the film into Canadian theatres.

I absolutely adored Penelope when it premiered here in '06 and received one of the most enthusiastic crowd responses I've ever heard at the film festival. The story is heartfelt and earned, and the cast's fantastic: James McAvoy was still a relatively unknown up-and-comer just two short years ago; Catherine O'Hara cranks it out of the park as Penelope's frantic mother; and Peter Dinklage simply couldn't be funnier as the tiny photographer out to snap a photo of the pig-snouted lead character. And in the title role, Christina Ricci couldn't be sweeter, her anime-huge eyes peeking out over Penelope's trademark scarf to convey all the wonder, innocence, and joy of a character finding her way into a larger world.

Naturally, it can always be a bit bracing to see if a film seen and loved at TIFF actually holds up once the festival frenzy dies down - especially when that frenzy gets to die down for 18 whole months. Plus, studio interference over so long an incubation period might mean that the flick onscreen today might be markedly different from the one that got a standing ovation at the Ryerson theatre in September 2006. But I'm looking forward to seeing Penelope again.

Penelope (finally) opens in Toronto today.


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