Movie: Miss Potter

Miss Potter PosterMiss Potter was a moderately recent biopic of Beatrix Potter that focused on the time surrounding the publication of her first few books and the romance with the publisher of those books. This was very much a “chick flick” (although, as my father was quick to point out, not the type of chick flick that is date fare). It was slow moving and focused entirely on the interpersonal relations between Beatrix Potter and the people around her. The romance was rather uninteresting, actually, with no real build-up or surprises or even tension. What made the movie was the tension between Beatrix and her mother and the friendship between her and her publisher’s sister. For no apparent reason, Beatrix’s brother was completely absent from the film except for a few flashbacks showing him as a child. I really wondered why he wasn’t at the Christmas party.

The retellings of Potter’s stories were a little over-cute, but they didn’t cut out parts I had expected (Peter’s father having been made into a pie by Mrs McGregor, Jemima being in very real danger, etc.). Instead, they left those parts in the stories, but whitewashed Potter’s childhood. We saw her as a little girl with numerous animal “friends”, which she reportedly was, who got disgusted by her brother pinning bugs to a board, which she definitely would not have been. The fact that those cute, cuddly friends sometimes found themselves being dissected by the young artist and her scientist brother never got mentioned. The drawings themselves were also animated to move and Potter reacted as if she saw them do so each time, when clearly no one else did. This was cute and very much in keeping with Hollywood’s idea of a “charming young lady children’s book author”, but somehow I get the feeling that if Beatrix Potter Heelis was around today she’d be very much annoyed by it. She was not that type of woman, by all the reports I’ve read. Maybe she had changed by the time those were written (most came from later in her life, after she’d mostly stopped writing for farming), but it seemed far too much a Hollywood convention to me. Why must Hollywood make the world of children’s books and those who create them so “precious” (almost to the point of nausea sometimes)? Why can’t the people who write books for children just be adults like everybody else? Is that really so much to ask?

I did enjoy the movie, but obviously it brought up a few issues! I would recommend it, just don’t take it to be necessarily a very accurate picture of Beatrix Potter. Not that any biopic is really that accurate, I suppose. But it was a fun little romance, even with the bittersweet ending.

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