Friday, November 18, 2011

Miss Potter

 Heaven forbid...I have actually put aside the wonderful ' magic ' of Sleepless in Seattle and watched a different film!! This particular DVD has been under the telly for as long as Sleepless in Seattle has been. And like that film I never thought I'd bother to watch it. But last night I did before my fifth consecutive night of watching Tom Hanks win over Meg Ryan. Now this is a difficult film to categorise. It isn't quite a chick flick even though of more interest to a female audience. And it isn't strictly speaking a bio-pic. It is a sort of hybrid of both.

 But all the same it avoids the dryness that can sometimes come with biographical films. It also infuses enough heart and warmth to make it approachable and watchable. I do re-call the release of this film and the positive reviews it got but at he time I felt it looked too female orientated for my tastes. After last night I still think it more a ' chick's '  film. But all the same it is a fine film and well worth watching.

 It is of course based on the life of children's author Beatrix Potter and her battles with her parents over her chosen vocation and choice of men. Now first off the film has several inaccuracies. But they fortunately don't detract from the main focus of the film, which is Potter's rise to fame as a children's author, and her desire to marry her publisher against the wishes of her snooty parents. The surprising thing about the film is that it is only 91 minutes long! But even with cutting out a few aspects of Potter's life the 91 minutes are actually spot on length wise.

 Normally a film like this of that length would aggrieve me. I think a film should be at least 100 minutes at least, but Miss Potter delivers more than enough in its relative briefness to satisfy. And satisfy it does! The cast here is superb and there isn't a mis-casting to be seen. Renee Zellweger is magnificent as the somewhat sheltered Potter, who battles her interfering, over bearing parents. I believe she had a dialogue coach for the film to negate her post Bridget Jones American twang. She speaks and captures Potter's privileged, but sheltered life beautifully.

 This is important because the viewer instantly gains a rapport with her and sympathises with her desire to strike out on her own. Her parents are superbly played by Bill Paterson and Barbara Flynn. Flynn in particular captures the snobbery of too much money, and I couldn't help but won't to give her a good hard kick up her fat snobby arse! I mean even as a child she was dismissive of her daughters obvious burgeoning artistic talents and offered no encouragement or praise. It is terrible to think that once upon a time parents could and did feel the need to control their children's lives, even into adulthood.

 Ewan McGregor is well cast as Potter's publisher and then fiance. He has the ability to play these charming mannered roles so well. The chemistry between him and Zellweger is obvious. I just loved the almost innocence of Potter juxtaposed against the polite charm of McGregor's Norman Warne. To prepare for the role McGregor actually studied photos of Warne and visited the modern day Warne Publishing House. Both he and Zellweger read letters that Potter and Warne wrote to each other as well. So research was done to create the characters as close as possible to the real people. The animated Peter Rabbit scenes etc were done by an animator who had previously worked on Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It adds a real charm to the film as it conveys to the viewer the world through Potter's eyes and how she conceived her characters. I think it very well done.

 My only niggle is in just how real was the politeness? I know this Victorian England but somehow it just felt a tad overdone. Or I may be fatally wrong and that was how the upper class and privileged spoke and thought of one another. But either way, overdone or not, it still produces a quite reasonable period drama of which the English excel at better than anyone else...period. But as stated there are several minor inaccuracies. For instance Norman Warne died of pernicious anemia which does not cause coughing as stated in the film. Secondly whilst not an inaccuracy as such, more an oversight, is the fact that Potter throughout her life made detailed fungi studies and often stated her desire to be a mycologist. And lastly The Tale of Peter Rabbit had been privately published before taken up by the Warnes.

 Miss Potter was released in time to be in Oscar running contention but garnered no nominations. Whilst positively received and a financial success it has a sort of under whelming feel to it. It is a well made, acted film no question, and it delivers charm and fell good vibes galore, but something isn't quite there. I felt the Victorian era politeness a little over done which I found somewhat distracting. But for it's relative short running time of 91 minutes, the quality of the cast and their respective performances Miss Potter is a worthy watch. It is just interesting to watch a film like Sleepless in Seattle before this because I haven't stopped thinking of that film whereas Miss Potter hasn't really stayed in my mind.

 IMDB has this with a solid 7.1/10 which is probably fair because it is well made all round. It isn't perfect but it does enough to be a fine watchable biopic/period drama. Where it fails is that it just isn't memorable. Solid undoubtedly, but sadly not at all memorable.

 Click here for a synopsis and more:

No comments:

Post a Comment