Monday, January 14, 2008

Review of Miss Potter

My husband and I finally got a chance to see Miss Potter last night, starring Renee Zellwegger and Ewan McGregor. We both loved it! I highly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Beatrix Potter--as well as those who haven't a clue about her (more on that later). Anyhow, I've been a fan of Beatrix Potter books for as long as I can remember. Our family even named a cat "Tom Kitten"! I remember spending hours composing my own illustrated imitation-Peter Rabbit books--her books definitely inspired my creativity as a child.

While I knew a bit about her life from a BBC documentary I saw years ago, this film did an excellent job of bringing her to life. The movie captured Miss Potter's brilliant imagination and her independence. While the film concentrates primarilly on her adult life, it also examines her secluded childhood and burgeoning creativity through several well-conceived flashbacks. Throughout the film she gains remarkable independence and incredible success with her work. Although the film makes use of artistic license in order to make Beatrix Potter appear more independent than she actually was (for instance, in real life her parents her parents bought Hilltop Farm, not she herself)--I believe it is otherwise true to the spirit of her life's story. Furthermore, the film is a feast for the eyes. The views of the Lake District are breathtakingly beautiful and the interior shots are very well done. The soundtrack was also lovely--I'm a sucker for any score composed by Rachel Portman, but her music was particularly appropriate for the tone of this film.

One thing that took me a bit off-guard was how much my husband enjoyed this film. Prior to seeing this movie he had never read a Beatrix Potter book, and I think he was prepared to indulge me a little by watching it with me (I know it's hard to believe that anyone on the planet has never heard of Peter Rabbit, but DH is from South America and I think Beatrix Potter is a bit less of a celebrity there). In the end, he loved the movie and was totally captivated by Beatrix Potter's illustrations, stories, and her life (this happens quite frequently in our house, though--the other movie he had this reaction to was Anne of Green Gables--I think he likes stories about spunky women!).

In fact, he was so into the film that we ended up seeing all the special features that went with the DVD.Generally the "additional features"are an incredible bore (deleted scenes that should have burned, etc.). Surprisingly, they were actually very good! Even the "making of" feature was fascinating! Rather than focusing on the actors, the features were largely documentaries of Beatrix Potter's life that added a great deal to the value of the movie. One detail I found quite interesting was that Beatrix Potter's father was a friend of John Millais, the pre-raphaelite painter! It's a small world, afterall. Also intrigueing was her early adoption of merchandising to sell her books--apparently Peter Rabbit tea sets, stuffed toys, water bottles and the like are not modern-day inventions--Potter herself created a number of different products in order to promote her books. Interestingly, while not averse to making profits, she did turn down Walt Disney's offer to make Peter Rabbit into a motion picture in 1936.

Another particularly innovative aspect of Beatrix Potter's children's book empire is what she did with the profits. From 1905 onward, Beatrix dedicated herself to purchasing farms in the Lake District to protect them from developers. She also became a breeder of Herdwick Sheep, a rare breed found only in the Lake District (in 1943 she became the first woman to be President of the Herdwick breeders association). Upon her death in 1945 she bequethed over 4000 acres of land to the National Trust--one of the largest amounts of land ever donated. She was certainly an incredibly creative woman and a visionary in terms of her views on land protection.
For more on Beatrix Potter's life, visit Linda Lear's website (she is the author of Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature, available on

(image copyright Momentum pictures)


Tracy said...

DH & I watched this film last year and loved it too! As you say, they really did portray B. Potter's life well in the film, really bringing the woman behind those precious, lovely books to life. And just the scenery in the film...ah, heaven! Happy week to you ((HUGS))

Bebe said...

Would you believe I still haven't seen the film? I'm just a little behind on my movie-watching. From your review, it sounds wonderful, though! I love Peter Rabbit because he's a bit of scamp, stealing all those lettuce leaves and carrots from Mr. McGregor's garden! Thanks for reminding me to order a copy of the film! I can't wait to see it!

Bebe :)