For those who aren't itching for more big explosions and yippee kai yay exclamations, there's another DVD that's hitting the stands today -- Renée Zellweger and Ewan McGregor's Miss Potter. The film, which was in theaters earlier this year, is based on the life of Beatrix Potter, the creator of Peter Rabbit and the famous collection of children's books and merchandise that came after it. While by no means a complete portrait of her life, the film delves into the progressively-minded storyteller/artist as she fights to free herself of her parental restraints and be her own woman during the first years of the 20th century.
Having been inundated with Potter paraphernalia as a child, I was curious to get a look into the famous woman's life. How does the film work? It's not terrible, but not terribly great either. Unfortunately, the movie starts with Zellweger doing a voice-over which is way too much like Bridget Jones, so it takes a bit to wipe memories of the actress' previous role and get into the life of Beatrix. Beyond that, Miss Potter is one of those stories that gives genuine moments of laughter and sadness, intermingled with real-life happenings, but it's also one without a strong focus. Sure, our attention is directed towards Potter, but you're not sure in what context -- a love story, a story of female power, a story of family or a story of friendship. While each of these elements is present, it's not in a fluid way. This would be okay with a non-linear story, but in this context, it makes for uneven storytelling.
The specifics of the story: Beatrix Potter is a woman in her early 30's who is rebelling against her parents' expectations and is determined to make a living for herself from her writing and artwork. She finally gets picked up by a publishing house run by the Warne brothers. They see her silly rabbits as a great distraction for their younger brother Norman (McGregor), who has just joined the business. As we all know, the book became a success, leading to a professional partnership between Potter and Warne, which later turns to love. Of course, no love story runs smoothly, and the film covers the true drama that befell the writer.
What of the DVD? I have to say -- It's a great, respectable disc whether you're picking it up because you love the film, or because you are a big fan of Beatrix Potter's work. There is the feature commentary with director Chris Noonan -- one that starts off with a bang, sharing information about how the film came to be -- its early days with Cate Blanchett and how it was originally going to be a musical. However, while Noonan offers great insight, he often mentions how knowledgeable Zellweger became about Potter's life -- to the point that it feels like she should be there, filling in extra details about the woman and the production. Unfortunately, these days stars don't seem to be doing many commentaries, so we're left without.
The crowning graces of this disc are two featurettes -- The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Beatrix Potter and The Making of a Real-Life Fairy Tale. The former is a really great documentary that offers a lot of insight into the writer and her life, which is just the thing that should be on a DVD feature based on a real-life person. It gives a great overview, while filling in a lot of the blanks that would keep you wondering after the film. The other feature is a run-of-the-mill, but nicely lengthy, featurette about the making of the movie, which should satiate the fans of McGregor, Zellweger and the production.
Finishing off the features is a music video for Katie Melua's When You Taught Me How to Dance, and the theatrical trailers. What is most obvious about this disc is that it was put together by people who know what a fan would want to see. There's the movie, the real-life information a fan would be curious about and a good deal of discussion about the making of the film. No, it isn't a special features extravaganza, but it is a good, solid offering for both fans of the Potter stories and of the film itself.