Children's author and illustrator Beatrix Potter may've had a penchant for fluffy bunnies and bonnet-donning ducks, but Renée Zellweger plays her like a bull in a silk bustle in Miss Potter. It's perfect casting for this charming and inspiring story of a woman who strains against her corseted existence in the 1900s, to fulfil a childhood dream. Chris Noonan (who last directed Babe) conveys all the whimsy of her inner world, although apparently, at the expense of major supporting characters.
Ewan McGregor is delightfully gawky as Potter's publisher and secret beau Norman Warne, but his own struggle to earn the respect of family and peers is glossed over. It feels remiss, since the romance between Potter and Warne frames the story. Naturally, as an aspiring female artist in a society where marriage is valued above all else, Potter has a steeper mountain to climb, and there's plenty of drama along the way. There are cheeky laughs too, often courtesy of Potter's mother (Barbara Flynn), aka, the Mrs Bucket of 1900s London. Again though, the script doesn't peel away the surface frills.
"A GUARANTEED TEARJERKER"
It's the combination of Zellweger's charismatic, scrubbed face turn and Noonan's empathy for Potter's streak of silliness that wins the day. As she sketches Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck, they spring to life in enchanting animation. But these magic moments are also a poignant reminder of the loneliness that plagues Potter who repeatedly insists, "They are my friends". The film is a guaranteed tearjerker, but more than that, an uplifting tribute to a single woman's quest for independence that would surely make Bridget Jones blush.