Musical Score By: Joby Talbot
Songs By: Various Artists
Distributed by: Lakeshore Records
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Generations ago, the Wilhern family was unfortunate enough to cross a witch who placed a spell on the family cursing their first born girl to a life with the face of a pig. Years later, after a succession of boys, the Wilhern family is blessed with a girl. Unfortunately, Penelope, being the first born girl to the family, possesses the nose of a pig. It is said that the curse can be lifted if one of her own learns to love her. Penelope’s wealthy parents take this to mean that the person who would break the spell would have to be of the same financial stature as the Wilhern’s. Thus, twenty-year-old Penelope (Christina Ricci) is forced to meet potential suitor after potential suitor, each of which takes flight at first sight of her “deformity”. Tired of being kept in hiding, Penelope leaves her parents home and ventures into the city, a world she has been kept ignorant of her entire life. It is here that she finds she can be herself, no longer hiding her features from the world.
The Penelope Soundtrack features songs by various artists and a musical score composed by Joby Talbot, a British composer who began writing and performing as a part of The Divine Comedy, a UK pop group circa the 1990s. Since then he has composed music for a number of films, including The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Arctic Tale, and a number of television series, such as The League of Gentlemen, Grass and Mayo. The various artists featured on the Penelope Soundtrack include Schuyler Fisk, Meiko, The Secret, Devotchka, Paper Moon, Stars and more.
Penelope is a modern day fairytale – a love story in which the main character must first love herself for who she is before anyone else can learn to love her. The music of the soundtrack reflects the fairytale style of the movie by opening with fantasy-like music that is somewhat cartoonish and comedic in nature. Harps, xylophones, pianos, horns and plucked violins combine to tell The Story of the Curse. In the track Penelope Breaks Free, Joby Talbot’s composition is such that the music rises in crescendo – trumpets, percussion, harps becoming louder and ascending in scale – signifying a very important occurrence in the film. You actually get a sense of freedom from the music – Talbot has done his job well here. The Wedding is similar in fashion, building in crescendo, but with one difference – the music begins to become rather ominous signifying that this might not be an entirely happy affair.
The music selected for this soundtrack mostly centers upon love – love found, love lost and loving one’s self. I particularly enjoyed Waking Life, a love song performed by Schuyler Fisk. The song is so catchy that I found myself singing along after hearing it for only the first time. String of Blinking Lights by Paper Moon has a Lisa Loeb feel to it, with catchy music and great lyrics. Ageless Beauty by Stars has great music, but unfortunately, I couldn’t understand a word of the lyrics. Hoppipolla by Wenzel Templeton and Robert Pegg is a beautifully uplifting composition. One can almost imagine Penelope discovering that she doesn’t have to hide her features any longer while this music plays. Perhaps the most fitting song on the soundtrack is Your Disguise by James Greenspun. The lyrics are perfect: “Don’t hide your face / You cannot erase / The pain that stays in your eyes / Lay down your guard / Show them who you are / Behind your disguise.” Who could ask for more appropriate lyrics for this movie?!
The musical score by Joby Talbot and the music selected from various artists combine to make the Penelope Soundtrack a highly enjoyable soundtrack that you’ll want to listen to again and again. This soundtrack has found a special place in my music collection. Add it to yours – I’m certain you won’t be disappointed.