Movie Review: Two for the price of one

I don’t usually do movie reviews, but I thought I’d make an exception.  Since I signed up for Netflix, I’ve found some more obscure films.  Some are rightly obscure – nothing to write home about.  Others might not have been blockbusters, and they may have problems but they have nice “moments” that make them worth watching, at least once, and sometimes more than once.

Two that I stumbled on happened to have Reese Witherspoon in them.  I haven’t seen much of her work and there haven’t been any of her major films that moved me particularly, but I do like both of these.  They are fairly gentle romantic comedies, at heart, though one of them does not have that as the main storyline.

The two are Just Like Heaven (also with Mark Ruffalo) and Penelope (also with Christina Ricci).

There isn’t anything very remarkable about the story in Just Like Heaven, but what makes it enjoyable are the characters.

The Netflix summary is thus:  Shortly after David moves into a new place, winsome Elizabeth shows up to assert that the apartment is hers, then vanishes. When she starts appearing and disappearing at will, David thinks she’s a ghost, while Elizabeth is convinced she’s alive.

And that is basically it – the two of them trying to work out what exactly she is while falling in love.  But they are surrounded by quirky friends and family:  Elizabeth’s sister, David’s best friend Jack and a guy who works in a bookshop and firmly believes in the paranormal.  There is a scene where Elizabeth manages to ‘inhabit’ David’s body, well acted by Mark Ruffalo, and Jack’s zingers are amusing.  But mostly it is a sweet love story with plenty of obstacles along the way.

The other movie, Penelope, I didn’t actually know Reese Witherspoon was in until I was watching it.  Netflix’s summary says:  In this modern-day fairy tale, a young woman cursed with the nose of a pig lives her entire life in seclusion — until an unlikely beau stumbles onto the scene and convinces her to celebrate her inner beauty.

Some reviewers thought the pig nose looked fake, but I had no issue with it.  They do sort of drop a few ideas over the course of the story, but they aren’t terribly essential to the story.  Catherine O’Hara plays the mother, in an over-the-top performance.  While it somewhat suits the character, she is pretty annoying.  Despite the extreme reactions when people see Penelope for the first time, her appearance doesn’t truly warrant it.  Indeed, one becomes accustomed to the prosthetic nose because it blends in well with Christina Ricci’s face, and most would almost forget about it after a time.  There is some question as to why the eventual resolution didn’t ‘work’ sooner, but that can also be forgiven.  The heart of this movie is the interaction between Penelope and Max (James McAvoy), and later with other people she meets.

The resolution is a worthwhile message for anyone, but particularly young girls, about accepting themselves.  And another nice touch is that Peter Dinklage gives a delightful performance as a reporter, and his size isn’t even noticed at all in the story.  It simply is irrelevant – he’s a reporter.  Little people are not always afforded that courtesy in life or as performers, so it was good to see.

One rather strange thing about the movie is that it is evident it is set in England, but the British/Scottish actors use American accents (for the most part) and it is put forward as if it were in America.  It’s not clear why it wasn’t simply set in England.  Perhaps the filmmakers thought that was cliché.

At any rate, it is nice to see Penelope come into her own and find her own happy ending.

Unless you absolutely hate any kind of romantic comedy, you might enjoy these.  Note:  I saw them on DVD from Netflix.  I’m not sure if they are available via streaming there.


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