Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
United Kingdom/USA, 2006. Phoenix Pictures, UK Film Council, Grosvenor Park Media, BBC Films, Isle of Man Film. Screenplay by Richard Maltby Jr.. Cinematography by Andrew Dunn. Produced by David Kirschner, Mike Medavoy, Arnold Messer, Corey Sienaga, David Thwaites. Music by Nigel Westlake. Production Design by Martin Childs. Costume Design by Anthony Powell. Film Editing by Robin Sales.
No, this is not a movie about J.K. Rowling’s little hero turning sassy. While not as scintillating as the events that led Isak Dinesen or Janet Frame to put pen to paper, the life of Beatrix Potter, the most successful children’s author of all time and one of England’s most prized land conservationists, makes for a well-meaning and pleasant, if muddled, film that will surely charm its viewers. Renee Zellweger is appropriately adorable as the lady in question, a spinster (by Victorian standards) living with her parents whose life has been spent in pursuit of her art. Potter has been painting cute little animals and inventing stories for them her whole life, and now as an adult has decided to pursue the avenue of publishing as a way to get her work into the world and support herself as an independent woman. The publishers who take her on, however, think of her as merely a trifle who will fail for sure, and have only accepted her in order to give their youngest brother, and newest partner in their firm (Ewan McGregor) a way to occupy his time and stay out of their hair. McGregor, however, turns out to be passionate about Potter’s work, and after the two of them make an international success of her stories, turns out to be passionate about her as well. The film works best when concentrating on Potter’s conflict between her snobby parents and her desire to be an artist, telling an almost inspirational tale of how one’s talent can literally save one’s life. It eventually suffers from biopic fever, unfortunately, and in not choosing a proper focus starts to scatter all over the place in its final third. Still, our heroine’s likeability remains throughout, and Chris Noonan’s lovely attention to detail, both in the plush Victorian settings and the beautiful animation that has Potter’s vivid imagination come to life before your very eyes, makes it more pleasant than it could be. Zellweger and McGregor enjoy the same wonderful chemistry they had in Down With Love, and Emily Watson is a standout in a supporting role as his even more confirmed-spinster sister.
Golden Globe Award Nomination: Best Actress-Musical/Comedy (Renee Zellweger)