Saturday, December 30, 2006

MISS POTTER - a two-hankie love story

Because, Dougal, my nerves are shot and I won't be able to relax until the only rabbit left is the one sitting in your head working the controls.True fact: the first book I was ever given was a copy of The Tale of Miss Jemima Puddle-Duck by Beatrix Potter. True, but hardly unusual. Beatrix Potter is one of the best-selling children's authors of all time and in England especially, Beatrix Potter is the first author most children are acquainted with. Where Americans have a colletive nostalgia for Dr Seuss, over here it's Miss Potter who filled our imaginations with tales of farm animals come to life and depicted in charming water-colour. So for that reason, I was intrigued to see this new biopic starring one of my favourite actresses (and the only one who can really inhabit an English accent) Renée Zellweger. The good news is that the movie is so wonderfully acted and such an engrossing love story that I'm convinced viewers will get a kick out of it whether or not they read Miss Potter's books as a child.

The title of the movie is significant. For "Miss Potter" is an unmarried thirty year-old woman from an upper class English family. As such, she has proclaimed herself willful and given her mother great pains. She moves in a restricted social circle with a chaperone and her drawings are seen as frivilous. Even when F.Warne and Company agree to publish her first book, they only take her on to fob off "the bunny book" on their hapless younger brother, played by Ewan MacGregor. So begins a journey of emancipation for Beatrix. She consorts with a tradesman (the horror!), visits a printing press and acquires an independent income. She even earns a little respect in her social circle. Finally, encouraged by Mr Warne's marvellously frank sister Milly (Emily Watson), Beatrix falls in love and becomes emancipated from her family. It is a small, lovely story, beautifully told, but never saccharine or predictable. A true two-hankie love story in the best possible sense of the phrase.

MISS POTTER is on limited release in the UK and US. It opens wide in the UK on January 5th and in the US on Jan 12th. It opens in Canada and Turkey on Jan 19th and in Australia on Jan 25th. MISS POTTER opens in South Korea on February 1st; the Netherlands on February 8th; in Spain and Japan on the 24th. It opens in Norway on March 23rd, Italy on April 6th ad in Belgium and France on April 11th.

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