The life of Beatrix Potter might sound like a tame proposition, but this self-conscious vanity project for Renee Zellweger plays even less interestingly than any fluffy bunny bedtime story. Casting herself once again in the Bridget Jones/singleton mode, Zellweger’s self-produced biopic of the creator of Peter Rabbit, Mrs Tiggywinkle and other cutesy woodland creatures bears the same ‘tortured artist’ hallmarks of the JM Barrie story Finding Neverland. Another Weinstein brothers production, the narrative similarities extend right down to the thwarted love element, this time in the form of a tepid dalliance with publisher Norman Warne (Ewan McGregor).
As with most literary biopics, there’s absolutely no sense of Potter actually doing any writing; her daily routines seem to revolve around nothing more substantial than simpering and handing pictures of rabbits to publishers. Richard Maltby’s script offers such a sketchy feel for Potter’s work that any notions about the difficulties of being an independent woman in society are quickly abandoned. Instead, director Chris Babe Noonan serves up weird animated sequences in which Potter’s drawings come alive in a way that’s meant to be heartwarming, but actually seems to suggest that the author might well be losing her mind. This failure to suggest any kind of interior life for its central character ensures Miss Potter collapses into a lame ‘girl draws rabbits, girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl draws more rabbits’ narrative well before a Katie Melua song arrives as a knockout punch over the final credits.