A sweet little film that didn't get much notice from audiences (although the picture did score a Golden Globe nomination for its leading lady) upon release at the very end of last year, "Miss Potter" stars Renee Zellweger as Beatrix Potter, the beloved author of such titles as "The Tale of Peter Rabbit". Director Chris Noonan's picture opens in London in the early 1900's, as Beatrix is having a difficult time trying to shop her book around to various publishers, all of whom have a negative reaction to taking on a children's book.
However, she lucks out when she stumbles across a family-run publishing company not as interested in the book as they are interested in giving the youngest brother of the family, Norman Warne (Ewan McGregor) something to do. Despite the publisher's low expectations for the book, it manages to sell surprisingly well, and Norman asks Beatrix to reach down into the creative well for more ideas. The film brings some of the author's stories to life via animated sequences.
As the time passes and the two continue to work together, they find themselves also falling for one another and Beatrix even makes friends with his sister, Millie (Emily Watson). However, when the two announce their marriage, her parents disapprove, because they believe Beatrix is of a higher class. The film also offers some flashbacks showing Beatrix as a child, as well. The film has been compared to "Finding Neverland", but I liked this better, as it did a much better job being moving without being sappy and sentimental.
The picture is surprisingly tight and swift, clocking in at just over 90 minutes and feeling like less. Noonan, who hasn't directed a picture since "Babe" years ago, has crafted a delightful biopic, with a great performance by Zellweger, who once again handles the British accent quite nicely. She also shares a pleasant, warm chemistry with her "Down With Love" co-star McGregor. Overall, "Miss Potter" was a pleasant surprise - a short, good-hearted little tale that remained true to itself and featured a great performance from Zellweger as a strong, independent woman.
VIDEO: "Miss Potter" is presented by Genius Home Entertainment in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a respectable transfer, but falls a bit short of expectations for a new release. Sharpness and detail are not exemplary, but look pretty good throughout the show. The film does have sort of a slightly soft focus look seemingly by intent.
The presentation did show some minor artifacting and edge enhancement, but neither of these issues were too distracting. Colors often looked natural, but they could also seem a tad heavy and smeary at times, as well. Overall, this was an average presentation.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation was dialogue-driven throughout, offering crisp dialogue and score. No complaints.
EXTRAS: Commentary by director Chris Noonan, enjoyable featurettes on the life of Potter and the making of the film (both about 20 minutes each), music video and trailer.
Final Thoughts: A heartwarming biopic, "Miss Potter" features one of Zellweger's best performances in a while. The DVD presentation offers average video quality, fine audio and a good selection of extras. Recommended.
The Film A-