Beatrix Potter (Rene Zellweger) is young woman in her 30’s, still living at home with her well-heeled parents in London. The year is 1902 and Beatrix, who writes and illustrates stories for children with animal characters, visits Warne and Co. to see if they will accept her manuscript, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, for publication. Indeed they do, and they assign their younger brother Norman (Ewan McGregor) to supervise the project.
Although her father, Rupert (Bill Patterson), a lawyer who spends his days at his club rather than working, is proud of her achievements, Beatrix’s mother, Helen (Barbara Flynn), is too preoccupied by class and status to ever come near to understanding her daughter’s enormous and creative talent. She only wants Beatrix to marry someone “suitable” and parades various suitors through the parlor, all of whom Beatrix wisely rejects.
With the publication and success of her first book, Norman Warne, wants to continue. He and Beatrix become friends and he asks her to marry him. Her parents are set against it and though Beatrix is determined to marry him, he falls ill and dies before it can happen.
Beatrix is heartbroken and with her new found wealth, she realizes she can be independent of her parents and find her own way. She buys a farm in England’s Lake District and after a while is able to continue writing and drawing. Meanwhile, she is caught up in a movement to preserve the district as it is, with small farms, so as to avoid the industrialization of the beautiful area.
This account of the story-line does little to describe the amazing charm of this intricately filmed and beautiful crafted movie that moves gently back and forth between Beatrix’s childhood and the current day. The appealing Rene Zellweger exudes charisma as her animal friends come to life and she talks to them, telling them to behave. Her repressed heartbreak at Norman’s death is touching and feels real. Just when it seems the film is going to become a commentary on early 20th century feminism (and raising good questions), it takes a different path, as Beatrix did in real life. Though directed by Chris Noonan who gave us the classic Babe (and written by first-timer Richard Maltby, Jr.,) the cinematography and art direction are outstanding.
Miss Potter makes the U.K. a triple threat (Notes on a Scandal and Children of Men are equally strong contenders) as this awards season draws near.
Miss Potter is a totally enchanting journey of the heart into the land of the creative imagination.
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