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Miss Potter


Stars: Renee Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, Emily Watson, Barbara Flynn, Bill Paterson, Lloyd Owen, Matyelok Gibbs

Director: Chris Noonan

Although almost as slim as one of Beatrix Potter's famous children's books, this is a sometimes charming little biography of the writer and illustrator (Zellweger) who was, throughout her early life, not understood by her parents, and especially her social-climbing mother (Flynn), who sees Beatrix reject a series of wealthy suitors, all presented as unlikely comic cut-outs.

Always interested in nature and animals, Beatrix uses her childhood summers in the Lake District as the inspiration for such characters as Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck. When the firm of F Warne agrees to publish the first tale on a whim, and appoints the youngest Warne, Norman (McGregor) to oversee what they expect to be a turkey, they are stunned to find a best-seller on their hands.

Norman begins to visit Beatrix at her home, much to her mother's disapproval. 'I wish you wouldn't invite tradespeople into the house,' she sniffs. 'They carry dust!'

Beatrix, unmarried at 32 (in real life 39), is now a wealthy woman - and determined to marry her unexpected suitor. 'Our daughter is famous, Helen,' Papa (Paterson) chides his wife. 'You're the only person who doesn't know it.'

Flynn and Paterson are both excellent here, as is Watson as Norman's bohemian sister, but there are a few stiff performances in the supporting cast, and Zellweger herself, though her English accent is more impeccable than ever, tends to rely overmuch on her trademark smirk. Occasional cartoon interpolations, as the author's drawings come to life, are not as intrusive as you might expect.

David Quinlan

UK/USA 2006. UK Distributor: Momentum. Technicolor/Fujicolor.
93 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 01 Jan 2007