MISS POTTER (Chris Noonan). 92 minutes. Opens Friday (January 12). For venues and times, see Movies, page 68. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
The smarmy trailers for this look at children's book author Beatrix Potter promise lyrical whimsy and starched-collar truths about class differences in Edwardian England.
The movie isn't a complete success, but it's better - or at least more ambitious - than those trailers suggest.
Renée Zellweger purses her lips and pinches her cheeks to a ruddy glow as the rebellious unmarried daughter who stubbornly devotes herself to creating little animal stories.
When her friendship with her equally misfit editor, Norman Warne (Ewan McGregor), shifts to romance, her upper-crust parents whisk her away up north away from "the tradesman."
The film scrambles about trying to find its tone and central theme. It toys with feminism, artistic inspiration, romance, class and even ecological responsibility. Potter in her later years was a defender of the unspoiled English countryside.
The result feels uneven. Having Potter carry on conversations with her 2-D creations - who suddenly come to life - makes her look insane. Her relationship with Warne, and his single sister Millie (the radiant Emily Watson), however, comes across vividly.
The last third is darker than expected, and the film keeps chugging along like an endless train.
It's not the most sophisticated biopic, but it's watchable and informative. Pay no attention to those trailers.