Miss Potter

Film
AFFAIR OF THE ART Love bustles in the hedgerow.
AFFAIR OF THE ART Love bustles in the hedgerow.

Time Out says

Warning: If you’re one of those sensitive souls who, upon sight of Beatrix Potter’s besuited bunnies and hedgehogs, get a Pavlovian pout on their lower lip and a helpless expression, this movie may be too much for you. Twinkly and beyond cute, Miss Potter is merely serviceable as biography, but illegally addictive as a vehicle for Flopsy, Mopsy and other denizens of Potter’s charming bestiary. The animals come to life in the imaginings of the preteen tale-teller (sharp newcomer Lucy Boynton) and wriggle via some slightly embarrassing animation onto the pages of the adult author (Zellweger), a turn-of-the-20th-century sensation.

Even more unbearably, the script accommodates a quaking courtship between the slightly dotty Potter and her devoted young publisher, Norman Warne (McGregor), who exchange romantic byplay such as, “You and rabbits—extraordinary!” and “I recently remembered a story...about a duck!” Zellweger and McGregor have real chemistry (already displayed in the equally formal Down with Love), so when Potter’s unfortunate life takes them where it must, the sugary film seems to betray us in the worst possible way. If Potter’s protofeminism and land-conservation efforts are the movie’s true concerns, why then the chime-laden score and first hour of shameless heart tugging? As always, Emily Watson is a welcome presence, as Norman’s spinster sister and a kindred spirit to Beatrix. The way she solemnly declares, “I am prepared to like you very much” suggests a way the movie could have honored the childlike spirit of Potter’s work while simultaneously striking a humorous tone. (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.) — Joshua Rothkopf

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