If you are tired of
all the sex and violence and depravities of modern cinema, you are not
likely to find a less offensive film than Miss Potter.
Miss Potter is all
about love, manners, British ingenuity, imagination, striving for your
dreams, fuzzy bunnies, pleasing children (though for a film about a woman
who makes a living writing for children you really don't get to see her
actually interacting with kids) and family values. It's all sturdy and
dramatic and charming and not just a little bit twee. One person's
sweetness is another person's saccharine, after all.
Miss Potter is famed
Brit authoress Beatrix Potter, a sweet woman who lives in a fantasy world -
one she was finally able to capture on paper with The Tales of Peter
Rabbit and a series of best-selling children's books.
As portrayed by Renee
Zellweger, Beatrix Potter seems a smart, confident, imaginative and vaguely
odd spinster. She was born of rich parents but can't stand the class
system that rules their world. She can't differentiate between her
characters and her friends and often in the film her drawings come to life.
This is well done and sweet looking in the style of Potter's own paintings
- though it can get a little cutesy sometimes.
Of course, the slight
problem is that you can't quite decide whether Beatrix is a wonderful
eccentric with an overactive imagination or if she is completely bonkers.
Probably a little bit of both, for as Miss Potter shows imagination
and belief is more important to the artistic process than hard work.
When Potter goes to a
publisher to try to get them to release her books and drawings, the
publishers agree - specifically because they are certain that the story
will go nowhere and they need a dead-in-the-water project to occupy the time
of their younger brother (Ewan McGregor), who is just joining the family
As they start working
together they become friends and (rather suddenly, honestly) realize they
are in love. (Though this is all courtly love, they never share more
than banter and one kiss through most of the running time.) As their
relationship progresses, Beatrix' work is sort of shuffled off to the side
as far as the film is concerned - which was not a wise choice on the part
of the filmmakers.
In the long run, Miss
Potter is a very sweet and charming movie. Problem is, it works so
hard showing its characters downplaying and politely dealing with their
passions that it's nearly impossible to have more than a polite and measured
reaction to any of their triumphs and losses. These people are so
repressed that even after she agrees to marry her publisher, they still
refer to each other as "Miss Potter" and "Mr. Warne" in casual conversation
(or as casual as any conversation is in this film.) Maybe that
really was the way life was back then, but it feels weird and uncomfortable
now. Even when characters become passionate, raise their voices and
fight, it is all done in a very civilized manner.
Miss Potter takes a
rather melodramatic turn towards the end, and while it is all done with the
gravitas of Masterpiece Theater or a Merchant/Ivory film it
feels rather perfunctory. It appears that Beatrix Potter's imagination
was more interesting than her real life and this film would have been even
more interesting if the writer had recognized that and capitalized on it.
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: June 15, 2007.