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Miss Potter pays tribute to famed children's author

Amidst a tightly corseted, straight-laced, chaperoned English world was a free-spirited woman who drew bunnies. However, these were not ordinary bunnies. And one bunny (Peter Rabbit) in particular was a friendly sort who tumbled into amiable trouble now and then.

Her imagination nurtured a throng of even more friendly and affable anthropomorphic creatures, and soon Miss Beatrix Potter became one of the most famous women in all of England. 'Miss Potter' is the tender tale of this inspired artist who shed the metaphorical restrictiveness of 'the gentler sex' to embrace the wonders of freedom, love and ultimate happiness with determinism, fortitude and courage.

Her world was an era where association with 'tradesmen' was frowned upon, where spinsterhood was worn loudly upon one's sleeve and where a woman's drawings were considered a frivolous little hobby. Adding to this unwholesome mixture was a condescending mother and a benign father, who neither encouraged nor dissuaded Beatrix from pursuing her dream.

Closeted in her room for years staining her fingers blue, the magical stories and drawings of Peter Rabbit and friends emerged. Yet the figurative door after door closed in her face until she came across a publishing house run by two brothers.

Both being tightly wound dour-faced sorts, they agreed to publish her little efforts - primarily as a way to keep their younger brother occupied. They assumed they would not see profits, but at least Norman would have something to do. But Norman had other ideas.

Miss Potter and Norman Warne forged a rapport that went beyond a purely publisher and client relationship.

This is not the first time Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor have shared the big screen, appearing in 2003's 'Down With Love.' Perhaps they will become this generation's Doris Day and Rock Hudson.

Having been Bridget Jones twice, Miss Potter is a snap as Zwelleger does British well. Trading 21st century attitudes and morays for early 20th-century sentimentalities afforded her the opportunity to bristle brightly in her bustle against formidable odds - the strongest of which was her mother.

As her books sold and her reputation grew, Zwelleger's Beatrix literally straightened her backbone to defy her mother's wishes to become engaged to the above mentioned publisher, a - gasp - tradesman. It is enough to cause vapors. Unfortunately tragedy ensued, and Miss Potter is bereft of a fiancé.

McGregor's Norman has just the right amount of cheerful and sincere panache without reminding you of the caddish way Montgomery Clift wooed Olivia de Havilland in 'The Heiress.'

'Miss Potter' juxtaposed the narrative sequence in developing her relationship with her parents and their patronizing attitude toward her art. Capturing the flavor of the times, director Chris Noonan ('Babe') evoked the ambiance of a genteel era with costuming, striking English country sides and locomotive smokestacks.

'Miss Potter' is a composed piece, and this is a two-tissue movie.