Miss Potter Made in: Great Britain, US (production/distribution) Language: English Director: Chris Noonan Starring: Renée Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, Emily Watson, Barbara Flynn, Bill Paterson, Lloyd Owen Year: 2006
Synopsis: Biopics are always interesting, since it's always fun to explore the life stories of influential people by taking a look at how they became famous (or where they went wrong).
Miss Potter (no relation to Harry) is mainly about the adult life of the imaginative Beatrix Potter (played by Renee Zellweger), and how she managed to publish the internationally renowned Peter Rabbit as well as other stories about talking animals that children still adore to this day.
We learn about Beatrix's childhood through flashbacks, and get a glimpse of her early creative influences through her love of animals and storytelling. Animated sequences of cute animals are meant to help us get a glimpse of what was going on inside Beatrix's head, and even though they're fun, they sometimes unintentionally make us wonder if she's been smoking anything.
Miss Potter is a also about the societal constraints in England during the early 1900s, particularly for young single women in their 30s. Beatrix challenges her disapproving mother, Helen (Barbara Flynn), and the rules of high society when she wishes to marry Norman Warne (Ewan McGregor), the inexperienced publisher who promotes her work.
The film also touches upon Beatrix's efforts to preserve working farms and the natural beauty of the English countryside.
The Good: Straightforward and charming, Miss Potter is essentially an underdog story, and seamlessly blends in feminist ideas and a "follow your heart" message that's well executed. Ewan McGregor does a fine job in his supporting role, and Renee Zellweger holds her own as a solid lead.
Overall, this is a witty, positive movie with some spectacular shots of rural England.
The Bad: From a filmmaking point of view, the story follows a straightforward sequence of events with the absence of any serious conflict. If you're familiar with the life of Beatrix Potter, you'll notice that this film leaves out many fascinating details of her early years.
We don't get a sense of how hard she really studied and worked at her craft, and just how much of an expert illustrator she really was. Nor is there any mention of her photographic skills, her high intelligence despite being denied a formal education, and her contributions to the British Museum.
The film makes it look as though Beatrix Potter became a success simply because she had a general talent for drawing, liked funny animals, and simply believed in herself despite the prevalent sexism of the time.
Who would like this movie: Fans of Peter Rabbit, animal lovers, and foreign films will like this one. Despite many historical omissions, this is a clean, entertaining film with positive messages and English wit. Fortunately, there's an included documentary about Beatrix Potter's life on the DVD that goes into more detail about the evolution of her professional accomplishments.