'Miss Potter' nicely flavored, charming British period piece
The repressed sexuality and class consciousness of British society have been a treat for moviegoers again and again. In "Miss Potter," the British character is wound so tightly, it threatens to cut off the blood supply to enjoyment. It does not. For several reasons, the oxygen-rich charms of this romantic biopic circulate rather well, thank you very much.
The most prominent reason is Renee Zellweger as the title character, Beatrix Potter. There is unparalleled tenacity mixed in with Zellweger's contemporary, girl-next-door appeal as an actor. As Miss Potter, we see a woman in her late 30s in love for the first time in her sheltered life. Clenched teeth and pursed lips give way to a smiling glow with nary a sex scene on or off the screen.
The man in her life nurtured her through societal barriers that kept women authors off bookshelves at the beginning of the 1900s. Beatrix Potter wrote "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" and sold so many copies of all her "Tale of ..." books that Dr. Seuss and J. K. Rowling could not help but tip their best-selling hats to her legacy.
More keenly telling than the love between Potter and her publisher, Norman Warne, is the loving friendship Potter shares with Warne's sister. Emily Watson brings a magnificently peculiar vitality to almost every role she plays. She almost upstages Zellweger here. Almost. Watson's character offers a kindred spirit with complementary qualities that help assure Miss Potter her arc to confidence. This friendship is a fairly rare girl-buddy theme without the calculatingly marketable Thelma and Louise sort of kinship.
With cute renderings of Beatrix Potter's immersion into her world of drawings, appealing visits to Britain's Lake District (which Potter did much to save from real estate "progress") and satisfying flavorings on British period-piece making, "Miss Potter" is a nice filmgoer's contrast to the web of Spider Man 3.