A few nights ago, I was flipping through channels, and I came across the 2006 movie Miss Potter on a Canadian station. I initially thought that it was a PBS sort of movie, since the characters were rather stiff and formal. But then some guy who looked like Ewan McGregor with a mustache came on, and the lady playing his sister looked a lot like Emily Watson—-with those eyes. And so I began to wonder if these actors were playing on a PBS movie, or if it wasn’t a PBS movie at all but was rather a regular movie. I wanted to stay up late to watch the rest of the film so that I could see the closing credits and thereby satisfy my curiosity—-plus I was finding the movie rather engrossing. But it was getting late, I had to get up at a decent time the next morning, and I didn’t know how much longer the movie would be. Thus, I taped the rest of the movie so that I could watch it the next day, and I went to bed.
I found out the next day that it was not a PBS movie, and that Ewan McGregor and Emily Watson indeed were on it. Moreover, I learned that Renee Zellweger was the actress who was playing Beatrix Potter. I saw her in a preview for another movie earlier that night, and she stood out to me when I saw that preview because I remembered Family Guy portraying her as an anteater (see here and here). But, when I saw her on Miss Potter, I did not recognize her as Renee Zellweger.
I found the movie engrossing for a variety of reasons—-even though I thought that it was a PBS movie, and I ordinarily do not care for PBS dramatizations of the classics (though I love PBS’s documentaries!). First, the movie depicted Beatrix Potter as rather eccentric. As a child, she told herself stories. And, as an adult, she did not have many friends, but her friends were her cartoon characters (i.e., Peter Rabbit), and she spent time talking to them. She did not enjoy finding a suitor or having dull conversations at social functions. While her formality and her conversations with her cartoon characters could be rather annoying, her eccentricity was also endearing, probably because I often feel that I am a misfit, and thus I tend to root for those types of people to succeed. And Beatrix Potter did succeed, even though her publishers did not take her work seriously, at first. Plus, she met a man who appreciated her for who she was—-and he himself was somewhat of a misfit. He didn’t have a lot of experience in publishing, and so his brothers assigned him to Beatrix’s “bunny stories”. After he tragically died of a sickness, she met another man who appreciated her and her work.
Second, once again, I was rooting for Beatrix to succeed. She wanted to make a career out of what she loved doing—-drawing and coming up with stories. But her mother did not take Beatrix’s work seriously, and her father—-while he thought that Beatrix’s work was quite good and himself had artistic aspirations that he never pursued due to his other duties—-saw her work merely as a hobby until she was actually published. It was a particularly touching scene when he bought a copy of Beatrix’s book, when she could have easily given him a copy for free. He wanted to honor her as an artist and a writer, and he did so by purchasing her work. Many of us would like to make a career out of the things that we enjoy doing, and so we can find ourselves identifying with someone else who had that goal and succeeded, notwithstanding setbacks.
Third, the movie had a magical quality, especially when the cartoon characters came to life. But the movie was sad, as well. After the man whom she loved died of illness, she turned to her cartoon characters for comfort, and they ran away from her.
Fourth, the movie had its funny moments. Beatrix was from an upper-class family, and her mother wanted for her to marry within her class. In one scene, we got to see some of Beatrix’s potential suitors. They were quite funny to watch!
In watching this movie, I actually had to try to remember who Beatrix Potter was. It’s been a long time since I heard the story of Peter Rabbit going into Mr. McGregor’s garden! I mean decades! I was glad that I watched this movie. I missed the beginning of it, though, so I ordered it from Netflix. It’s the sort of movie that I can watch again.