Star-Studded Fairy Tale Wins by a Nose; Box Office Philip Key THE BIG PICTURE PENELOPE (U) Starring: Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, Catherine O'Hara, Reese Witherspoon, Peter Dinklage, Richard E. Grant, Ronni Ancona. Director: Mark Palansky 89 Mins. Rating: ***
Byline: Damon Smith
IN SHAKESPEARE'S The Merchant Of Venice, Jessica famously declares, "Love is blind and lovers cannot see/The pretty follies that themselves commit . . . "
Sadly, love has perfect 20-20 vision in Penelope, a modern-day fairy-tale about a young woman's futile search for enduring romance in an imageobsessed world where her unsightly facial abnormality brands her a freak.
"For seven years, I've been watching them run," laments the eponymous recluse played by the fantastic Christina Ricci, after the latest batch of potential suitors catch sight of her porcine nose - the family curse - and run for the hills via the first-floor window.
Born into the wealthy Wilhern family, Penelope has been hidden from the cruel outside world by her socialite mother Jessica (Catherine O'Hara) and despairing father Franklin (Richard E Grant).
Jessica is haunted by the words of the hag who invoked the curse: "When one of your own kind claims this daughter as their own, till death do they part, will the curse be broken!"
She joins forces with Aunt Wanda (Ronni Ancona) to find an upperclass bachelor to lead Penelope down the aisle, thereby breaking the spell.
Unfortunately, all likely candidates are repulsed by Penelope's appearance.
She comfort eats to cope with constant rejection.
"Now you're going to make a pig of yourself?" snipes Jessica. "That's already been done for me!" retorts Penelope sadly.
When tabloid reporter Mr Lemon, who has been trying to get a photograph of Penelope for years, learns of her whereabouts, he hires blue blood Max (James McAvoy) to pose as a suitor and capture her grotesque likeness on a hidden camera. …