Miss Potter (8/10)
by Tony Medley
One of the many disappointing
films I’ve seen since I’ve been a critic was a turkey called “Down With
Love” (2003), starring Renée Zellweger and Ewan McGregor. McGregor gave
a particularly ineffective performance in the film.
Tonight I went to see “Miss
Potter,” starring the same Zellweger and McGregor, and came away totally
enchanted. A biopic of Miss Beatrix Potter (Zellweger), McGregor plays
Norman Warne, who is a beginning publisher. Beatrix falls for Norman,
but her family, especially her mother, Helen (Barbara Flynn), is
violently opposed, mainly because she thinks they are upper crust and he
is a tradesman.
What is wonderful about this
film is the dialogue (Richard Maltby, Jr.) and the way that everyone
treats everyone with such respect, all the while standing up for what
each thinks is right. Beatrix calls him “Mr. Warne,” and he calls her
“Miss Potter” all the while they are falling in love.
For the first 45 minutes or
so the film jumps back and forth between Beatrix as a grown woman and as
a child (Lucy Boynton, who gives a charming performance). Occasionally
her drawings of rabbits and such come to life and she talks to them. As
she falls in love with Norman, she also befriends Norman’s sister,
Millie Warne (Emily Watson, who also gives a terrific performance), who
becomes a confidante.
The charm of this picture,
expertly directed by Chris Noonan, is the way it captures the world of
manners of turn-of-the-20th century London. Beatrix is of a
certain class, at least her mother thinks so, and, as such, a tradesman
such as Norman is not an appropriate husband. But the way they speak
with one another is, oh, so proper.
Adding immeasurably to the
charm of this movie is the cinematography (Andrew Dunn and Chris Seager
as D.P.), the production design (Martin Childs), the Art Direction
(Grant Armstrong and Mark Raggett), and the Set Direction (Tina Jones).
All combine to capture the world in which Beatrix dwelled and created
such classic children’s books as “The Tale of Peter Rabbit.”
The books made Beatrix
enormously wealthy and she used her wealth to purchase thousands of
acres in The Lake District, keeping it from development, leaving it all
to The National Trust, thereby preserving a beautiful part of the
Zellweger is so perfectly
cast she seems to have been born for this role. This is a highly
entertaining family, PG-rated film that contains nothing objectionable
while showing life as wonderful as it can be.
December 26, 2006