Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Renée Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, Emily Watson, Barbara Flynn, Bill Paterson
Director: Chris Noonan
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
(Drama) The story of Beatrix Potter, the author of the beloved and best-selling children's book, "The Tale of Peter Rabbit", and her struggle for love, happiness and success.
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"Because you are fond of fairy tales . . . "
Susan Wittig Albert | Texas | 07/06/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Because you are fond of fairy tales," Beatrix Potter wrote to one of her favorite children in 1901, "I have made you a story all for yourself, a new one that nobody has read before."
Now, a century later, "Miss Potter" (directed by Chris Noonan, starring Rene Zellweger) has a new story to tell, and quite a fairy tale it is, too, with all the delightful magic of one of Beatrix Potter's own stories: winsome characters, luscious settings, strong period details. I was charmed by this film (viewed on DVD, with all the extras), and spent an enchanted evening watching it. As a movie, it is fine family entertainment--something that's hard to come by, these days.
But the film has been widely billed as a biopic, and if you were looking for a story that's true to Beatrix's life, this one might mislead you. Richard Maltby (who wrote the script and spent some 10 years trying to get it produced) and Chris Noonan have teamed up to give us a lovely fairy tale, but one that is based on some fairly fundamental misrepresentations of Beatrix's real life.
Take that elaborate Christmas party, for instance, in a festooned Potter mansion. This dramatically pivotal event could never have happened, for Rupert and Helen Potter were Dissenters who did not celebrate Christmas--much to Beatrix's disappointment, as a child longing for a tree and the trimmings. (In life, both the Potters seem to have been much more dour people than their on-screen representations.)
Or take those childhood visits to the Lake Districts, which never happened either. The Potters holidayed in Scotland until Beatrix was 16. Which means that she could not have met Willie Heelis, who was nearly five years younger than Beatrix, anyway (not older, as the film portrays him). Oh, and Willie was the son of a rector and the Heelis family belonged to quite a different social class from the one in which Willie is placed in the film. More misrepresentation (although the on-screen Willie is a real charmer.)
But the most unfortunate distortion of all is the decision to collapse the eight years it took for Beatrix to become independent enough to leave her parents. The film portrayed Norman's death as the lever that pried her from the Potters' grasp. Not so. Beatrix bought Hill Top a few months after Norman died in 1905, but did not leave her parents until 1913, when she married Willie. For eight long, difficult years, Beatrix commuted from her parents' home or holiday residence to Sawrey. During that time, she could get away only five or six times a year, sometimes for a few days, sometimes for as much as a fortnight. Norman's death was indeed the prod she needed to make a change, but it wasn't until Willie offered her another choice that she was finally able to free herself. Compressing this long-running family conflict into a matter of months and hinging the whole thing on Norman's death distorts Beatrix's character and makes her seem more decisively "modern" than she was in real life.
As a novelist engaged in creating historical fictions (some of them featuring Beatrix Potter), I am always aware of the challenges of representing real people in fictional contexts, and worry when real lives are seriously distorted to make a story more entertaining. I enjoyed this film as a film, and give it five stars for its entertainment value. As a biopic, I'd give it a two, three to be generous. Putting the two together, a four-minus.
Oh, and for the real story of Beatrix's life, you'll want to read Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature by Linda Lear.
Susan Wittig Albert is the author of The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter: The Tale of Hill Top Farm (The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter), The Tale of Holly How, The Tale of Cuckoo Brow Wood (Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter Mysteries), The Tale of Hawthorn House: The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter, and four other forthcoming novels in the series."
A marvelous period film in the best Weinstein tradition
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 12/23/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this lovely film this past week in Chicago at a preview showing and was simply delighted by it. Only five years ago this would have been a Miramax film, but following the messy departure of the Weinsteins from Miramax to form their own production company, they are distributing this joint production. Set in the early decades of the twentieth century, in a sort of extended Edwardian age, the film possesses a wonderful period feel and look. Like the best of the Miramax films, it feels like a time capsule more than a contemporary production.
With only some shame I have to admit to knowing very little about Beatrix Potter. To inject some autobiography, I was not read Potter as a child and though after my divorce I raised my daughter, reading to her constantly, there was an agreement that on her periodic visits to her mother she would be allowed to read her Beatrix Potter (because of a Potter obsession by her own godmother) and Laura Ingalls Wilder. I read my daughter every other children's' writer, but was forbidden to dip into either of those. So I saw this biopic knowing next to nothing about her. The film seemed to me to give a good impression of who she was. She emerges in the film as a sort of timid feminist, not a activist, but quietly insisting on taking her own path. Though there are flashbacks to her childhood and the final quarter of the film focuses on her moving to the Lake District, most of the film deals with the period of partnership and eventually romance between her and her publisher, Norman Warne. One suspects that of necessity a great deal is left out, but as it exists it is compelling. I did a bit of checking on the Internet and discovered that she was not 32 in 1903, so the film obviously fudges some numbers, but as presented the film still provided a delightful portrait.
Renée Zellweger is wonderful in the title role. I have seen photographs of Beatrix Potter and there does not seem to be much of a resemblance between the two. To the film's credit, they do a great deal to de-emphasize Zellweger's loveliness. She isn't exactly plain, but she isn't as beautiful as usual. But she brings a delightful simplicity to her role. Ewan McGregor is fine in his role, but unlike their unfortunate film DOWN WITH LOVE, his role is not equal to hers in this one. He manages to be everything he needs to be. Emily Watson plays his sister. There are movie stars and there are actresses, and she is an actress. I have always been amazed at much her various roles can differ from one another. A lot of actresses, unfortunately, as they near the age of forty, have probably reached close to the end of their career. Watson is so splendid, however, and those huge eyes so expressive, that you sense that she probably hasn't reached half of her eventual film resume. I'm certain we'll be seeing her in roles thirty-five years from now. It was good to see Bill Paterson as Beatrix's father. He has always been one of my favorite supporting actors and for my money we have always seen far too little of him. Veteran British actress Barbara Flynn is excellent as well as Beatrix's mother.
Chris Noonan directed the film. The last time we encountered him as a director was in one of the most delightful films of the nineties, BABE. I have absolutely no idea what he has been up to the past decade, but this film has some of the same lush look that BABE did. Interestingly, animals feature prominently in both films.
The last part of the film, that centers on the beginning of the final chapter of Potter's life as a farmer in the Lake District, features some of the most stunning landscapes you can ever hope to see in a movie. The end of the film indicates that Miss Potter left 4,000 acres of Lake District property to the National Trust. I hope that some of those scenes were filmed on some of that property.
Finally, I want to add that while I've never been one to be on the lookout for "family" (which to me usually are synonymous with "boring" or "bland"), this film, which could easily receive a "G" rating, is a film that any parent could feel comfortable showing any child. Younger children might find it a bit slow, but any fan of Beatrix Potter, whether young or old, will surely enjoy this film. Indeed, as someone who cannot count himself among her fans (entirely through a complete lack of acquaintance), I can attest that those unfamiliar with her work will love the film as well."
J. Winstead | 04/16/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw "Miss Potter" at the cinema and thoroughly enjoyed it. With beautiful scenery, moments to laugh out loud, times to cry, and a few delightful animations, "Miss Potter" takes us through the joys and frustrations of being a talented female author and illustrator in London at the turn of the century but being unrecognized as such by her own mother. I would heartily recommend this film!"
Wonderful feel good tale of children's author, Beatrix Potte
andreas838 | Geneva, Switzerland | 06/20/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This wonderful movie is based on the life of Beatrix Potter, children's author and artist of "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" amongst others. Spectacular acting and feel good story make for a highly recommendable cinematic experience. A must see!"