Friday, December 29, 2006

Dueling reviews

One of the last seminars I took in grad school was by Margery Wolf, who wrote a somewhat-famous book on postmodern critiques of ethnographic research, whereby seemingly obvious and objective observations are interpreted, re-imagined, and disseminated through the particular biases of different observers. (See? Too much graduate school education affords one the ability to spew theoretical vocabulary with the best of them.)

I felt a bit like one such observer this morning, as I was bounced back and forth between two competing print reviews of Miss Potter, which opened this weekend in Los Angeles.

A couple weeks ago, I attended a SAG pre-screening with a Q&A by Christopher Noonan, Renée Zellweger, and Emily Watson. Frankly, I enjoyed this movie, and recommended it to my friends, even though biopics tend to bring out the notoriously fickle reviewer in all of us (i.e., “Did so-and-so really do that?” “Did people dress/act/speak like that?”).

Two reviewers - Carina Chocano in the LA Times, and Ella Taylor in the LA Weekly – obviously had their own list of fickle points to hit after viewing the movie.

For instance, gripes about Renée Zellweger:

LA Times

“Thirty-six and unmarried in 1902 (though, unaccountably, the movie makes her 32 the year she published "The Tale of Peter Rabbit," because, let's face it, nobody wants to see a movie about a 36-year-old spinster, there are limits)…”

LA Weekly

“Bronzed and russet all over, with quaintly autumnal production design to match, Zellweger’s Beatrix bustles about, flashing the Zellweger sour-lemons smile, dispensing maidenly charm and no-nonsense practicality as she shepherds her little tales from soup to nuts….”

And, the acting abilities of Ewan McGregor:

LA Times

“Still, the movie is redeemed by excellent performances. McGregor, in particular, lights up the film, and in her scenes with him… His Norman is a pure, puppyish innocent with a bounding enthusiasm for Potter's work.”

LA Weekly

“Smiling nervously as if not to unseat the mustache precariously affixed to his upper lip, this Mr. McGregor does nothing to convince us that the pallid swain is the love of Beatrix’s life….”

Take a read yourself, and perhaps even see the movie, then make up your mind.

On the other hand, I think Ella Taylor had her own Xmas wish-list for this end-of-year movie:

“Unfortunately for her, she has Emily Watson at her elbow, acting up a storm as the independent sister of Potter’s doomed fiancé. Which had me wishing the two actresses would either trade places and have done with it, or run with the promisingly homoerotic current that courses through most close same-sex friendships of that period.”

Oh, well. It is the LA Weekly that has all those costly-per-minute phone numbers listed in the back pages.

1 comment:

JCW said...

I'll confess, that not only am I looking forward to this film, I am predisposed to like it. There's just something likable about Zellweger on film... for all I know she's a neurotic bitch in her personal life, but on film I just want to cuddle up with her.

Luckily for me, I am not well versed on the real life of Miss Potter, so as long as the accent is consistent (Always a sticking point for me) I expect I'll enjoy the film.

Funny, Emily Watson plays sister of the fiance... In my mind, I've seen her in a sister role with Zellweger for a few years now, based mostly on a certain physical resemblance. Neither one a beauty, both capable of projecting beauty on screen. A rare-ish quality.

Glad you liked it - makes me look forward to it all the more.