Miss Potter (PG)

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Time Out says

Tue Jan 2 2007

This charming biopic underlines the fallacy of confusing an author with their work. Forever synonymous with her fluffy illustrated tales for well-brought-up children, Beatrix Potter herself actually lived a life marked by struggle against her restrictive upper-class background. Still unmarried in her thirties, she took solace in the artwork her parents regarded as a childish affectation, until even they couldn’t help noticing she’d become a publishing sensation. The crux of ‘Babe’ director Chris Noonan’s first feature in 11 years is Miss Potter’s ongoing quest to be taken seriously, and Renee Zellweger’s characteristic pluck sees her shine in the title role, where burgeoning romance with her publisher Norman Warne (Ewan McGregor, delightfully gallant) helps her self-confidence blossom. The family, however, are dead set against her marrying into ‘trade’.

And what of Flopsy, Mopsy and Mrs Tiggy-Winkle? Well, sporadic outbreaks of animation bring the much-loved characters to life, but they’re frankly decorative rather than integral to the proceedings. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s not a children’s film, and all the better for it when the crucial love story gathers affecting momentum. Positively thrumming in each others’ presence, Zellweger and McGregor adeptly inscribe the sighs and flutters of pre-permissive attraction. Arguably, the film peaks too early, but the trade-off is a balanced picture of Potter’s extraordinary accomplishments in pouring her fortune into preserving considerable stretches of the Lake District. Not quite a love story, not quite a life story then, it’s undeniably ungainly (with Barbara Flynn’s maternal hauteur surely pitched too close to stupidity), yet its old-fashioned sincerity ultimately proves disarming. Sweet but not cloying, it’s a heartening portrait of goodness surmounting the odds.

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