01 November 2008

Miss Potter

Miss Potter A Delightful Biopic
By Kristin Battestella
Miss PotterWho hasn’t read The Tales of Peter Rabbit? A hundred years before this new Potter, Harry, Beatrix Potter’s books entertained millions and her literary influence can still be found on bookshelves worldwide. Strange then, that I was so clueless about Potter’s life until my recent viewing of the 2006 Miss Potter.
Renee Zellwegger (Chicago) stars as thirty two year old Beatrix, a woman content with her art, drawings, and children’s stories despite her very Victorian mother Helen’s (Barbara Flynn) objections. At least father Rupert (Bill Paterson) is more forgiving of Beatrix’s growing fondness of her publisher Norman Warne (Ewan McGregor) and his spinster sister Millie (Emily Watson). As her literary success spreads, Beatrix struggles to earn her parents respect and break free at her Hill Top manor in the Lake District.
I like Renee Zellwegger; her transformation and dedication to roles as varied as Down With Love and Bridget Jones’ Diary shows her Oscar worth. Unfortunately I do get a bit annoyed by her accent in Miss Potter. It’s as if she can’t be British without smiling and puffing her cherub cheeks. Yet her over the top touch is almost fitting in this proper Victorian time when unmarried women had chaperones and men had calling cards. Zellwegger and Ewan McGregor (also starring in Down with Love) have fine chemistry, but McGregor’s soft spoken idealistic Warne is given too little. His part seems so rushed by director Chris Noonan (Babe). If you have someone like McGregor, you should let him control his character’s course. His off screen departure is sad, yes, but also a waste of his talent. At least he sings briefly.

Miss Potter is cute and lighthearted, but I could do without the animated drawings and her talking to animals. It’s fine for kids I suppose, but how many kids are expressly going to seek out a film about Beatrix Potter? Kids being read or reading her work aren’t going to sit through this film, so I find the cute cartoons a little out of place. Still, Miss Potter is great for a teacher or parent looking to educate a tween about Potter, publishing, or her conservation work. The Lake District National Parks where Miss Potter was filmed are stunning, and the preservation of this land is due to Beatrix Potter’s own maintenance of the area’s estates. This statement, the beautiful locales themselves, and the layered Victorian sets give Miss Potter an extra warm and fuzzy feeling.
Writerly folks looking for a bookish movie will be pressed to find a better biography that Miss Potter. The devotion and appreciation of Potter and her work shows in the heartwarming attention to detail and artwork onscreen. However, if your onscreen writer leans more toward The Shining or Basic Instinct, the turn of the century styled Miss Potter is not for you. Very British and very Victorian, Miss Potter is equally for historical and period piece fans looking for something more light hearted than Dracula. Pick up the DVD for your family friendly for an educational night in.

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