Beatrix Potter (Renée Zellweger), a storyteller/illustrator since childhood, lives with her snobbish parents, Rupert (Bill Paterson) and Helen (Barbara Flynn) in turn of the century London, having rebuffed all suitors presented to her by her society-conscious mother. When her stories and water colours are accepted by the Warne family publishing business, she is introduced to youngest Warne brother, Norman (Ewan McGregor), the apprentice publisher. Her whimsical and charming stories about Peter Rabbit and other familiar English field animals are soon popular. And her relationship with Norman develops and eventually leads to a proposal of marriage - which her parents reject, viewing publishers as common tradesmen. But Beatrix, with encouragement from Norman's sister Millie (Emily Watson), is determined to grab her chance of happiness, until fate intervenes.
Review by Louise Keller:
Don't be surprised if you shed a little tear in Miss Potter. This enchanting biopic about the world of the creator of Peter Rabbit is warm and funny, revealing and moving. 'There's something delicious about writing the first words of a story,' says Renée Zellwegger's Beatrix Potter. 'You never know where they will take you.' For Potter, the direction of her life is fuelled by her imagination, and channeled into the characters she creates on paper - with pencil, paper and watercolour. First time writer Richard Maltby Jr has constructed an accessible script that canvasses the life and times of this classic children's author under the baton of director Chris Noonan in his first project since his debut feature, Babe.
Zellwegger imbues Potter with a mix of childlike wonder and independent strength of mind, as she battles against the attitude of the times, when women are expected to marry and stay at home. Flash-backs to her childhood (Lucy Boynton, outstanding as the young Beatrix) allow us to understand her circumstances. There's an air of restraint and formality about the world into which she is born. Home schooled, she lived a secluded life, compensating for her loneliness by creating her own friends that were inspired by her pets. But they were more than sketches to the child whose lively imagination allowed her to fabricate tales with which she amused herself and others. Her characters literally jumped off the page and kept her company throughout her life.
Her budding relationship with Ewan McGregor's publisher Norman Warne unfolds beautifully, despite the ever-present watchful eye of a chaperone. When Potter meats Warne's spinster sister Millie (Emily Watson), there's an instant connection 'I warn you - I am prepared to like you very much,' Millie states, after which time she quickly becomes an ally. Also canvassed is the fractious relationship with Potter's snooty mother (Barbara Flynn), and her supportive father (Bill Paterson). There are some lovely touches when characters like Peter Rabbit wiggles his ears or Jemima Puddle-Duck delivers a dose of attitude, with the magic of subtle animation. 'Any more of that and I'll paint you out,' warns Potter.
Noonan's film captures the essence of the Beatrix Potter's magic, making the film not only an involving and enjoyable treat, but ensuring a new revival of her unforgettable characters.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
World famous for generations yet little known - that's the irony of Beatrix Potter, whose works have adorned children's books and tea cups, egg holders and plates in most English households. Her stories of Peter Rabbit (among others) are said to be the most popular in the world, but until now, her own story has been untold. It's a marvellous story for the screen, and it's marvellously told by a combination of equally great talents, starting with writer Richard Maltby jr, a Tony award winning director of musicals. That he can write such a poignant, moving and dramatic screenplay is evidence of not only a solid talent but a big heart.
Director Chris Noonan turns the screenplay into a film of a myriad subtle but powerful moments, using the characters as engines to tell a life story through essential paraphrasing, giving us real people, deep seated motivations, deep seated love and artistic success - straddled by pain ... all with the beauty and eloquence of understatement. The occasional use of magic realism - gentle animations of Potter's animal characters on the page - add to the film's light touch and are discriminately used to great effect.
Wonderfully economical at 88 minutes, Miss Potter is a concentrated dose of cinematic joy and Renée Zellweger contributes greatly to its effect. Her Miss Potter has the nascent characteristics of a modern woman, and Zellweger's abundant ability to express her innermost emotions directly to us is superbly utilised. Ewan McGregor and Emily Watson are in top form as siblings who come into Potter's life and provide the love and warmth that her own home never quite matches.
Miss Potter is destined to be as much of a movie classic as the works of its subject have become classics in the world of children.
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MISS POTTER (G)
CAST: Renée Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, Emily Watson, Bill Paterson, Lloyd Owen, Richard Mulholland, Lucy Boynton, Barbara Flynn
PRODUCER: David Kirschner, Mike Medavoy, Arnold Messer, Corey Sienega, David Thwaites
DIRECTOR: Chris Noonan
SCRIPT: Richard E. Maltby jnr
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Andrew Dunn
EDITOR: Robin Sales
MUSIC: Nigel Westlake (addition by Rachel Portman)
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Martin Childs
RUNNING TIME: 88 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 25, 2007