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For, Friday, Feb. 9, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: A decidedly 21st century take on Beatrix Potter’s beloved Peter Rabbit opens this weekend, so it’s a good time to remind you of a lovely little film about Potter that played in theaters about a dozen years ago. ‘Miss Potter’ is available on DVD and shows up now and again on various streaming sites. I wasn’t reviewing movies in 2006 but I did have occasion to write about this one when it was released on DVD, and later in a column about romantic movies for Valentine’s Day.

June 21, 2007: “Miss Potter” (Weinstein/Genius, 2006, PG, $28.95). Renée Zellweger is the title character, Beatrix Potter, who lived a sheltered life until she wrote the beloved Peter Rabbit children's stories. This film is an offbeat mix of sentimentality and whimsy (she occasionally speaks to her characters and we see them respond).

Zellweger is utterly charming, as is Ewan McGregor as the shy publisher who slowly begins to woo her. The film also nicely captures the period, the turn of the 20th century.

If you are one of those who wishes they’d make ’em like they used to, this is for you.

February 6, 2014: In anticipation of Valentine’s Day (yeah, guys, it’s next Friday; write it down), the Internet and a variety of show-biz magazines have been bubbling over with their choices for the “best romantic movies,” and some of them are laughably strange.

“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”? “Lost in Translation”? “Big Night”? “Love, Actually”? “Friends with Benefits”?

Are they kidding?


        Renée Zellweger, Ewan McGregor, 'Miss Potter'

Despite some airs of romantic desire in each film, and whatever else you may think of them in terms of quality, none of these fit my definition of “romance.”

As old-fashioned as this may sound, to me romance involves meeting someone, finding yourself attracted to him or her, dating, having actual conversations, getting to know her or him, becoming closer, getting serious, declaring exclusivity. … And at some point, expressing love and fidelity.

Not, as Hollywood would have it, meeting, having sex and then, maybe, pursuing a relationship. And saying “I love you” seems to be the most difficult thing, spoken hesitantly, if at all.

Since the “freedom of the 1960s, ’70s and then even more aggressively since the ’80s, Hollywood has increasingly confused “romance” with “sex.”

Sorry, they aren’t the same thing. Romance is in the wooing, the courting, not in the bedding.


                        Renée Zellweger, 'Miss Potter'

But you wouldn’t know it to watch movies and TV shows these days. Perhaps because, in Hollywoodland, a long-lasting relationship might get you lunch the next day.

This is especially true of so-called “rom-coms.” I mourn the death of comedies about finding love in favor of comedies about finding a sex partner — graphic, profane, scatological, raunchy and otherwise R-rated. Or for that matter, PG-13-rated.

Note to Hollywood: Just because you can show everything these days doesn’t mean you should.

EDITOR’S NOTE: At this point in the column I listed 10 titles, including this one.

“Miss Potter”: The Victorian author, watercolorist and decidedly unconventional Beatrix Potter (Renée Zellweger), whose “Peter Rabbit” stories become a surprise sensation, is romanced in a reticent way by her gentlemanly publisher, Norman Warne (Ewan McGregor). This biographical comedy-drama is a touching true story artfully realized by filmmaker Chris Noonan (“Babe”).