A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that, while this film focuses on Peter Rabbit author Beatrix Potter's career and classic children's books, it's really aimed more at adults than kids (and the younger set will probably prefer the books). It deals with some mature themes, including the death of a loved one and disagreements between an adult child and her parents. Beatrix's mother repeatedly denigrates her desire to paint and tell stories; although her father is more encouraging, parents and child also disagree over Beatrix's choice for a husband. When a protagonist dies suddenly (off screen, from an illness), survivors show grief. Some characters drink socially, and one drinks to the point of passing out (this is treated as comedy).
What's the story?
Set in the early 1900s, MISS POTTER offers a fictionalized life of famous Peter Rabbit creator Beatrix Potter as she pursues a career as a children's book author and illustrator. Beatrix's whimsical ducks in bonnets and bunnies in brass buttons (which appear as animations) represent her feelings -- most often mild defiance or frustration at her parents' hopes that she'll marry a man within their class. Eager to publish a storybook with gentle watercolor illustrations, Beatrix (Renée Zellweger) meets with publishers and is assigned to earnest underling Norman (Ewan McGregor). The two go on to create a series of books. Beatrix also befriends Norman's sister Amelia (Emily Watson). But while she enjoys her new relationships, she must contend with social expectations, as embodied by her generous, mustachioed father, Rupert (Bill Paterson), who tends to give in to the wishes of her sterner mother, Helen (Barbara Flynn).
Is it any good?
Pleasant and unadventurous, Miss Potter makes it clear that Beatrix became a conservationist in her later years, using her earnings to purchase land and preserve wildlife habitats. Yet the film tends to stifle its heroine's energy rather than explore it. In part, this effect is a function of Zellweger's chirpy performance, but it's also a matter of plot: Despite her seeming independence, Beatrix is shaped by supporting characters, from her oppressive mother to the kind solicitor (Lloyd Owen) who helps her recover from tragedy. You keep waiting for her to break out, to match the giddy passion shown by Amelia, but she doesn't.
McGregor's energetic delivery of dialogue is delightful. Miss Potter suggests that Norman is a good match for Beatrix, and their very proper flirtations are quite charming, as is Beatrix's enthusiastic intimacy with Amelia
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the conflict Beatrix feels between the expectations others have for her (to be a proper wife to a man of her class) and her own ambitions (writing and illustrating books). How is her dilemma shown in the movie? How do her parents respond differently to her decisions? How does her romance with Norman help "smooth over" the potential abrasiveness of her career ambitions? What effect (if any) do modern opinions about feminism and achievement have on the way the story is told?
Themes & Topics
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