She has a Friend, Every Time She Paints

Miss Potter

A romantic bopic of children’s author, Beatrix Potter. It stars Renee Zellweger as Beatrix, Ewan McGregor as Norman Warne, her publisher (the two appeared opposite each other in Down With Love, which is coming up soon in my posting schedule). Emily Watson (she was in Testament of Youth [that WWI movie I watched with Kit Harrington] and War Horse) plays his sister, Millie. Beatrix’s father, Rupert, is played by Bill Paterson; we’ve seen him in Amazing Grace and Outlander.

This film beautifully showcases the Lake District of England and is a huge reason why I want to personally visit the scenery at some point in my life. It opens with Beatrix’s voice-over telling us when writing the first words of a story, one never knows where one will end up. We see her struggle to publish a children’s book and be taken seriously as a single, unmarried woman in 1902 London. Her publishers fob her off onto their younger brother who is making a nuisance of himself; if it gets mucked up, it’s no real loss. However, she is determined to look upon this as an adventure and encourages her illustrated animal friends to do the same. There is a flashback to her childhood, showing that she was a talented artist and making up stories even then.

Luckily, Norman loves Beatrix’s book and quite enthusiastic to work with her on it; everything can be done to her specification. Another flashback shows us that when Beatrix was young, her family started vacationing in the Lake District, where Beatrix got a lot of her inspiration. There was even a young man in the area who liked her stories, Willie Heelis. But Beatrix’s mother despairs of her ever marrying, or at least, marrying properly. She has introduced a string of suitable suitors to her daughter, but Beatrix wants none of them. Meanwhile, she and Norman make a good team publishing her book, and Norman encourages her to produce more stories. The first book, Peter Rabbit, is a success. Norman takes Beatrix to meet his mother and sister and Millie is determined to be fierce friends with Beatrix, bonding over their unmarried states.

In turn, Beatrix invites Millie and Norman to her family’s annual Christmas party. Her father comes to her rescue when her mother disapproves of their “tradesman” status. Beatrix’s present for Norman is a new Christmas story, which the party insists she share. She is a bit scandalous, showing Norman her bedroom, but they are chaperoned and Norman leads her in a sweet dance [I saw this movie before Down With Love or Moulin Rouge and was unaware that Ewan could sing]. Norman proposes, but Beatrix’s answer is interrupted. Then she confers with Millie if she minds. Millie encourages her friend to take a chance on love. Beatrix tells Norman yes. The next day, he visits her father. Unfortunately, Beatrix’s parents disapprove, her father mainly on the point that it is too sudden. They compromise; Beatrix can accept in secret. Their family will vacation in the Lake District for the summer again. If the couple still wants to marry at the end after some time, they will give their blessing. Norman bids farewell to Beatrix at the train station in the rain and they send letters back and forth.

Then, Norman’s letters stop coming. Millie writes, informing Beatrix that Norman is ill. She returns to London, sadly to discover that Norman has died. Millie was the only one who knew Norman and Beatrix were engaged. Oh, I cry every time during this part of the movie. Beatrix returns home, utterly depressed. She tries to draw, but her friends run from something. Millie comes to her rescue. Beatrix must get out of the house. She ispotter cottage quite wealthy now with the royalties from her books; she buys Hill Top Farm in the Lake District, from her old friend, William Heelis. Slowly, Beatrix comes back to life. She draws again and has new stories buzzing about. She reconnects with William, and they share the notion that the landscape of the Lake District needs preserved, farms should be kept farming, not bought out by developers.

The film ends back at the beginning, with Beatrix sitting down to write. We are told that eight years after moving to the Lake District, Beatrix married William Heelis and she donated 4,000 acres of farmland to the British people through a land preservation trust.

Miss Potter is not a terribly dramatic movie, which makes it a good movie to put on when I don’t want to have to think too hard on something. The scenery is gorgeous and I love Millie Warne’s views on unmarried ladies. I want a home someday like Beatrix’s cottage; it’s so cute. I have always loved bunnies (though I am quite content to let the bunnies that live in our backyard be as close as I get to having a pet), so I’ve always liked Beatrix’s illustrations.

Up Next: Titanic

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