Going Potty over Potter
As a child I can't remember any one reading me one of Beatrix Potter's tales yet I was aware of some of her creations such as Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle Duck. It sort of explains why when in 2006 the biopic of Beatrix Potter "Miss Potter" hit the big screen it didn't really appear on my list of movies I had to watch. Yet now having finally got round to watching it I have to say "Miss Potter" is a sweet, charming, fun movie which is enlightening as well as a little surreal.
"Miss Potter" starts with a thirty year old Beatrix (RenÃ©e Zellweger - Cinderella Man) single and still living at home with her well to do, social climbing parents. When Beatrix decides to try and get her tales and drawings published she meets Norman Warne (Ewan McGregor - Robots) who together make a brilliant team as her tales start becoming more popular than she ever could have been imagined. But as well as working well together they start to have romantic feelings for each other much to the disappointment of Beatrix's parents who deem Norman as below them.
Despite "Miss Potter" being a biopic there is something a bit Jane Austen about it as if Beatrix Potter could have been a character out of the classics rather than a real person. As such there is that costume drama feel to "Miss Potter", which is right considering the majority of the drama takes place during the early 1900s accompanied by the occasional flashback to Potter's childhood. But there is also that sense of romantic drama with a woman character struggling to leave home, the dominant parents and marry the man she loves. Maybe Potter's life was like this maybe director Chris Noonan ramped it up a bit to make it feel more like one of the classics, which ever it works well to make the up and down life of Beatrix Potter both fascinating and sweet.
Yet despite feeling like a sweet classic it's the fact that Potter's life was not straight forwards which makes it so fascinating. The dominating society climbing parents, the troubled love and so on makes it not at all plain sailing. If you don't know the story of Beatrix Potter then in a strange way it does keep you wondering how things will turn out, well at least on the romantic front because we know that her wonderfully imaginative tales went onto be childhood favourites for many.
Something which I did find rather strange and this could stem from my ignorance of Beatrix Potter is that coupled with the way her wonderful drawings come to life in her presence the character of Beatrix seems on the verge of being eccentric. Maybe she was a little eccentric but at times this side seems a little over played, over highlighted. Although it's still wonderful to see when her creations such as Jemima Puddle Duck and Peter Rabbit interact with her in a fun and often cheeky manner.
The good thing is that if it was the case that Beatrix was a bit of an eccentric then RenÃ©e Zellweger plays her beautifully with a sense of creativity that makes the character come to life on the screen. You do get a sense of who this woman was and the struggle she had to break the shackles of her domineering parents as well as the ups and downs of her personal life. It is in fact one of my favourite performances from Zellweger because she builds the character in such a way that your empathy for her grows.
Alongside Zellweger there is Ewan McGregor as book editor and first true love Norman Warne and in all fairness McGregor creates an interesting character who in a similar way to Beatrix is trying to step out of the shadows of his family. The only negative is the slightly uncomfortable and a little out of place semi musical scene which is tender but feels wrong. Plus Emily Watson does a nice job of playing Norman's feminist sister Millie who becomes a close friend to Miss Potter.
What this all boils down to is that "Miss Potter" truly is a splendid movie which manages to both entertain and educate in equal manners. It may feel a little Jane Austen in places but then it doesn't feel like a stuffy classic. Truly worth a watch even if you've only ever heard of the name Beatrix Potter.