Oh, you guys...
Miss Potter --ouch. It's the life story of Beatrix Potter (Renée Zellweger) whose sweet children's books (like Peter Rabbit) became ginormous best-sellers. The bulk of the movie concerns the first years of her career and her relationship with her editor (played by the reliably delightful Ewan McGregor). If the tinkly music and biopic creakiness doesn't annoy you, though, Renée sure will. We know from the great Babe (1995) that director Chris Noonan can do cute and whimsical without going too coy or precious. To his credit that's a tight rope to walk but yeesh, his leading lady ain't helping him walk it. The supporting cast is fine (McGregor fans may get a kick daydreaming about Moulin Rouge! while watching this for reasons I won't go into) if not particularly challenged, but then there's Renée.
Now I know some of you will immediately rag on me for being a hater. But I should let you in on a little secret: I actually wanted the big Z to redeem herself. I did. I mean, I've long since moved on. Loving to hate her...hating to love her. That's so 2003. I've found a far worthier punching bag since then. But there's no mistaking that she's a mess in this film.
At first I thought she was going for some sort of kabuki Mary Poppins homage. No joke. I did. I was even thinking. 'Um, it's not working Renée but good for you for being a weirdo and having a take on the character' And then I just started getting scared because I realized: she just doesn't know what she's doing anymore. This is an incredibly affected performance. It's as if she forgot that only some of her scenes are performed with animated characters. She definitely forgot that you don't have to do something with your face at every moment when the camera is on you. Sometimes just existing, your face in repose, is all the camera needs. Even our mediocre famous actresses (the Bosworths, the Albas et. al) understand this.
Renée was once a very good and pretty actress (see Nurse Betty and Bridget Jones Diary for proof) but something is wrong with her. I'm absolutely perplexed about her appearance in this movie. I can't recall a leading lady this famous allowed to look this terrible onscreen --her face is all blotchy and her makeup and wig are also unflattering. Add the aesthetic misfortunes to her continual face pulling and you have a film that's hard to look at, Miss Potter's delightful drawings aside.
Miss Potter D+ Renée Zellweger F
UPDATE: in one of the worst decisions the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has ever made... or perhaps in their most perverse prank, they've nominated this atrociously fussy performance for a Golden Globe as Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical. If the category was named "Worst Actress" than maybe OK, yes...
tags: Renee Zellweger, movies, Ewan McGregor,celebrities, Miss Potter, biopic, cinema, peter rabbit,films