May 4, 2007 -- “Miss Potter” is a warm-hearted, uplifting tale based on the true story of famed children's author and artist Beatrix Potter, who made a name for herself at a time in history when it was nearly impossible for a woman to achieve the kind of career she did. First and foremost, however, this is a love story about two people who had a most unusual romance, finding love in a place where neither expected to find it. This is also a beautiful film that displays the English Lake District in the kind of loving way that Miss Potter herself must have viewed it.
Oscar-winning actress Renée Zellweger (“Cold Mountain”) stars as Beatrix Potter in another winning performance as a fragile, but determined woman. Growing up in Victorian England with an upper class background, Beatrix was expected to marry well and produce children. She was interested in neither of these things. She wanted to be an artist. She eventually became an excellent artist, specializing in drawing plants and animals. She was also a good storyteller and had an active imagination. Eventually, she hit on the idea of writing and illustrating a children's book, “The Tale of Peter Rabbit.” She was turned down by six publishers before Frederick Warne and Co. agreed to publish the book. Beatrix worked closely with Norman Warne on the book. It became a huge success, followed by a number of other successful books. Potter became Warne's bestselling author.
Neither Norman Warne nor Beatrix had been looking for love. Both of them had resigned themselves to a life without marriage before they found each other. Beatrix Potter's mother, Helen (Barbara Flynn of a “Death on the Nile” TV episode) was opposed to the marriage, considering Warne to be a mere tradesman. In one scene Helen snorts “I wish you wouldn't bring tradespeople into the house. They carry dust.” Her father, Rupert (Bill Paterson of “Amazing Grace”) was more supportive of his daughter, but was still uneasy about the marriage. Norman's sister, Millie (Emily Watson of “Punch Drunk Love”) became best friends with Beatrix. The movie shows the social constraints against women in the early 20th Century. It also shows that Beatrix had her share of sorrows and challenges. There is some serious tragedy in this tale. Overall, however, it is an uplifting story of a woman making her own way in a man's world. Some critics will probably say this story is not sad enough. Too bad, that's life. Sadly, one cannot alter history to suit a sour mood.
Director Chris Noonan gives us a story with the right balance of humor, pathos and romance. It is also whimsical, like his earlier film, “Babe.” Noonan makes good use of animated illustrations to demonstrate Potter's active imagination. Cinematographer Andrew Dunn (“Hitch”) is equally at home in lush interiors and beautiful outdoor scenery. England's Lake District looks stunning in the film. You can see why Beatrix was moved to save 4,000 acres of this area and donate it to the National Trust. There is a nice epilog at the end of the film which shows what a confident, accomplished woman Beatrix Potter eventually became. This is a genuinely moving film, a fine tribute to an accomplished person. This film rates a B.
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