"It's not the power in the curse, but the power you give the curse ..." "Billy (Penelope, 2006)
Strong words from a little kid summing up the point of the whole movie. And there is one thing I learned from watching Penelope that I had never realized: I don't care for curse movies. Well, maybe Beauty & the Beast would be okay as it was the Beast himself, through his own actions, that brought it on,. However it is movies like Practical Magic or Penelope where the *ancestor* did bad and future generations must suffer for *their* actions. Hardly seems fair in this case of Penelope that her great, great, great grandfather did something naughty now she, three generations forward, lives daily with a mother who reminds Penelope she is not good enough and she must be fixed.
Penelope, star of the film, was born with the "face of a pig" and because of this no one will have her, either as a friend or lover. Played beautifully by Christina Ricci she takes us through a range of emotions as she looks inside to discover not only her independence, but her true heart. It's what she wants out of life that is important, not what her mother, society or any of the men who rejected her over the years want.
Max is the reluctant hero with a secret. James McAvoy, with his shaggy, straight hair carries his secret to the end of the film, never revealing who he is. He wants to break the curse, but knows he does not have the power within him. He is a hero with problems, one who spends more time at the gambling table than in his own apartment.
"You had to gamble all night?" he gets asked.
"Yeah," Max shrugs, "I still had chips."
He will have to come to terms with his own shortcomings, becoming a better man by the roll of the credits.
This wasn't your typical McAvoy part. There was no angst here as seen in some his period pieces though the hero's melancholy, as he realizes he wants something he can never have and his decision to live with that decision, shows depth not seen in the other characters of this movie. His noble gesture was Max's privilege to carry. He wanted Penelope, cared for her, yet walked away because he did not have the power to break the curse and set her free. That's what makes him the hero. He is silly in parts, singing and playing instruments, loyal as he defends Penelope, and horribly in pain as he starts to rebuild his life:
"You inspired me," he tells Penelope. ...inspired him to become the man he wanted to be, the man he really was.
The movie is love story where everyone needed to speak up a little sooner. However, when regrets are left behind we find ourselves with the happily ever after when the curse is broken and just about everyone finds what they were seeking.