25 December 2012

Chris Noonan's Miss Potter (2006)

After watching this movie yesterday, the lasting images in my memory are of the animated cartoons, which is by no means a good thing because they are one of the negative features of it.

Beatrix Potter was a naturalist, an artist, and a conservationist of note, and yet – in spite of director Chris Noonan's claims that he initially shyed away from this fimscript in horror of thoughts of cutesiness – 'cutesy' springs to mind here, as the film plays far too much on Potter's anthropomorphic characters as opposed to her other work.

The movie begins in 1902, when Potter (Renée Zellweger) secured a publisher (Frederick Warne & Co.) for her children's book The Tale of Peter Rabbit, the first true edition of which she in fact self-published the year before (although the movie misleads the audience on this issue).

There are a few flashbacks to Potter's youth, but the essence of the story is the publication of Potter's children's work, her conflict with her parents and her developing romance with Norman Warne (Ewan McGregor) which ends in his death before the marriage, and a little detail near the end about Potter saving land in the Lake District from the developers – she left much of the land she bought to the National Trust.

Noonan was aware that Potter, as an independently minded woman, was somewhat out of step with the prevailing Victorian ethos (which of course prevailed even after the event), but it's a pity that the movie makes so many omissions and includes so much extraneous matter.

Beatrix Potter is worthy of far more than this.

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