More Than Just a Movie

By Sonya Rehman

Starring Christina Ricci, James (drool) McAvoy and Reese Witherspoon, ‘Penelope’ has to be this year’s most sensationally creative, movie endeavour.
But that’s just it – ‘Penelope’ truly is more than any old, Hollywood-churned-out flick.
This is because director Mark Palansky weaves together reality along with silver threads of fantasy into a captivatingly pretty piece of aural-visual work.

Now what’s interesting about Palansky’s 2008, topical release, is the film’s storyline – its core.
Since this isn’t a movie review, I won’t give too much of the flick’s theme away, but allow me to state just this: that Penelope challenges stereotypes, and then some.
Bringing to light the imperativeness of one’s own inner acceptance, rather than be overruled by what the outside world deems as ‘beautiful’, Penelope the movie couldn’t have been released at a better time.

This is because we live in an era where external beauty comes so darn easy. Easy because, a nip here and a tuck there is so ‘accepted’ somehow now, than it was in the past.
And both genders the world over, will do almost anything to achieve the ‘perfect’ physical anatomy – from head to toe.
We’re all so pressurized to look flawless, aren’t we? It’s the glossies and the movies which drive us to feel so very externally incomplete, and this in turn slowly leads to an internal breakdown of what makes us what we are – within.

Sure, many writers and journalists might have denounced this entire new-wave of visual propagation – to reach the highest pinnacle of perfection – but this subject, is one that must be brought up over and over again.
It must be talked about, read and spread – continuously, so that the layers of generations beneath you don’t grow up like little walking, talking freak-shows.

Why doesn’t this era let us feel ‘good enough’? What’s wrong with this picture, and how much is enough?
A smaller nose, a flatter stomach, a skipped meal…there, are you ‘happier’ now? I find it so alien – so frighteningly ‘out there’, when a girl (or boy) who hasn’t hit puberty yet spends far too much time indoors, preening away (like a naïve little Cockatoo) in front of the mirror, when infact – she/he should be outdoors getting knees scrapped whilst tossing a ball, or climbing an old tree.

This entire façade – which the media keeps re-enforcing and happily pumping away into its audiences, simply makes way for shoddier ‘beauty’ products, fashion for the sake of fashion, and bigger bank balances for half-baked plastic surgeons.
It’s a vicious cycle you see – where the media gives, and we take, or rather lap up, sponge in, grovel at…while, hypnotically uttering: ‘more, more, moreeeeee…’
Janice Dickinson, a well-known former model, now in her early 50s, once stated in an interview: “I’ve been on the cover of every magazine in the world. But as a young model, I never felt as beautiful as I looked. I masked it well with alcoholism. I grew up in an abusive home and was told on a daily basis by my father that I would never amount to anything and that I looked like a boy. One of the main reasons I had a lot of plastic surgery was because of the voice of my father. I’ve had my chest and eyes done, my forehead lifted, and my stomach done. I’m addicted to cosmetic surgery. But plastic surgery hasn’t stifled the voice from my father.”

And that’s just it, it never will. It never does. Just as hardcore substance abusers can’t seem to get enough of their ingested, lonely and temporary highs, the same goes for a majority of us who can’t seem to want nothing more than temporary, physical ‘fix-ups’.

The real battle? That always lies within – it’s an external fight, which if combated continuously, will eventually be won.
And coming back to Penelope the movie, it must be watched by all means. Dreamy, etched with surrealism, and backed by a very relevant, and rather relevant, universal ‘I-don’t-feel-good-enough’ fear, truly makes Penelope more than just a movie.
It challenges stereotypes, while breaking pretentious veneers – that many of us are so apt at donning.

So for the time being? Give yourself a break…really; it’s just as easy as that.

Sunday, Daily Times

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