Miss Potter

One of the more curiouser things in the world of cinema is the ascendance of Renee Zellweger. Oh, she's a good actress, but not a great one. The most distracting thing about Zellweger (Cinderella Man, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason) is the inability to discern what emotion she is portraying. Is she angry? Is she happy? Is she annoyed? Zellweger has large cheeks, but it too often looks like she just took a bit out of a huge, tart lemon. Yes, this sounds mean, but it is on display often in Miss Potter, a movie that manages to be surprisingly charming despite Zellweger's forced artificiality and awkwardness. The Miss Potter in question is Beatrix Potter, world-famous children's author (she wrote the Peter Rabbit stories) and environmentalist.

The movie focuses less on her accomplishments and more on her relationship with Norman Warne (Ewan MacGregor, Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker, Stay). By doing this, director Chris Noone (Babe) and screenwriter Richard Maltby, Jr. are able to hone in on who Potter was as a person, which makes her accomplishments flow naturally out of the story. This is the tamest romance in recent memory (constricted in part by the setting), but Zellweger and MacGregor manage to make a chaste courting seem very romantic. There is a bit of a whimsical feeling as Noone has Zellweger speak to some of her creations which come to life on the page, but thankfully, he keeps this to a minimum.

And like most movies of famous women in the past, Miss Potter plays upon Potter's penchant for being an independent woman. In this case, it is more natural and less a gimmick for today's audience to relate to the character. Potter was getting on in age and unmarried, which causes lots of undue stress for her parents. Much to their dismay, she cared little for marriage, and instead wanted to become an author and artist. She has much going against her - her gender and her unmarried status are just two of the issues, but this causes her to try even harder. Eventually, she convinces a publisher to take her book Peter Rabbit. They assign Warne to the job. It is his first assignment ever.

Both set out to prove something to others, and along the way, fall in love. Zellweger is "plucky" like in some of her other roles, while MacGregor is a boundless ball of energy and optimism. So how does Miss Potter manage to work its magic? Noone and Maltby move along in an extremely unassuming manner. It is a quiet movie that simply wants to look at the interaction between the two people. As Potter's books become more and more popular with the public, it's easy to see the positive effect it has on Potter, and the budding relationship. This is the type of movie that manages to sneak up on the viewer, slowing enveloping them into its subdued charm.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 32 minutes, Rated PG for brief mild language.

Back to Movies