Saturday, January 27, 2007

Miss Potter

Tonight I saw Miss Potter starring Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor.

What a delight!

The film tells the life story of one of the most acclaimed children's authors of all time—Beatrix Potter (Zellweger). We see her as a child of privilege with parents who took their London social status seriously and seldom let her forget it. We meet her friends in the form of pets...and drawings of pets that she began when she was a little girl. We learn that first, her illustrations became greeting cards. Then, she developed them into narratives and sold them as books.

Her life as a "spinster" is frowned upon, as her parents have presented many suitable suitors over the years and she has rejected all of them. But the one man who has always believed in her is her publisher, Mr. Warne (McGregor). A friendship transpires between the two (and his sister Millie, brilliantly portrayed by Emily Watson) and they soon become engaged. Because he's a tradesman her parents don't approve of the coupling, but that doesn't stop the engagement.

What follows is a satisfying and honest look at a woman who was a feminist before her time—and I mean that in the nicest sense of the word. Beatrix Potter was independent, clever, powerful, thoughtful, intelligent and eccentric. The movie conveys that beautifully as her drawings literally jump off the page to interact with her and we watch a lonely girl transform into a competent businesswoman.

Yes, it's a light movie. There are no murders or suicides or dramatic scenes where characters break dishes in heated arguments. There are no drug users or orphans or accidents that typically surface when recounting the life of an writer. But the movie is all the better for it.

It stays faithful to the artist's story without creating illusions to mask the normalcy. And really, I can't think of a better way to pay tribute to the world's best-selling children's author of all-time.

No comments: