Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Redoubtable "Miss Potter"

G rated films are scarce as hen's teeth these days, but "Miss Potter" is such a film and very good one at that. Rene Zellwegger plays Beatrix Potter, the early 20th century authoress of the wonderful little animal tales about Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny, Jemima Puddle Duck and a cast of thousands. Rene also had a hand in making this movie and dealing with its script, and it appears she is multi-talented, as this is very well done. It is of course a period piece set in London and the beautiful Lake District in the northwest of England, and it shows to good effect the beauty of the English countryside and country life.

Beatrix Potter was a thoroughly remarkable woman, not just the writer of the best-selling children's books of all time. For one thing she was an early preservationist, wanting to prevent the raping of the beautiful landscape of England by over eager developers. With her royalties she was able to buy up a lot of beautiful land in the Lake District and bequeathed 4,000 acres of gorgeous real estate to the National Trust when she died. If only there were a few dozen Beatrix Potters in America.

The movie is absolutely family friendly, and includes a little CG magic as Beatrix's animal characters come to life briefly in several of the scenes. But it is not overdone, and it enhances a tale about a woman with a vivid imagination and a gift of writing who also was a rather good artist as well.

The story however is not just about 'a portrait of an artist as a young woman'. Beatrix grew up in rather posh circumstances in London, and made the mistake of falling in love with a man who published her books, something "not done" and beneath her station in the minds of her parents who called Mr. Warne a 'tradesman', a truly dismissive epithet. The story comes to a head when Beatrix at 31 accepts the proposal of Mr. Warne, and rejects her parents attempts to over-rule this act. She reminds them that they are social climbers living on money earned by their grandparents who were 'tradesmen' and so are hypocrites!!!

The story has many charms and dimensions, and the acting is simply superb, though apart from Zellweger Americans will not much recognize the cast. No matter, the story is well presented, and at less than 2 hours long definitely kid friendly.

Imagine a movie that does not rely on violence, sex, star power, or special effects and yet works very well-- shocking, but true :) By all means go and see this charming little film which is in limited release. Even if you are not a fan of Ms. Potter's wonderful books, this story has enough romance and charm to appeal to even the most adult and serious of audiences.


Michael Gilley said...

Hey Ben:

This film does look intersting and I'm glad they didn't throw in all that junk usually not needed. However, it's rated PG, not G. I can't imagine what they had to have done to get it. Strong words?

Ben Witherington said...

Actually at the theater today it said G, but maybe it is PG somewhere. No there is no language issue at all. I guess because someone passes away and death has to be dealt with perhaps they thought that might worry some parents.