In a New Year’s addition to bulk up our New Times-afflicted and release-overwhelmed critic wrangle, we’re adding Slant and the Onion AV Club to the round-up.
+ "Miss Potter": Most are underwhelmed by "Miss Potter," the Beatrix Potter biopic from "Babe" director Chris Noonan. Stephen Holden at the New York Times declares "the cinematic equivalent of a delicate English tea cake whose substance is buried under too many layers of icing." Nathan Rabin at the AV Club does away with the metaphor and just calls the "Miss Potter" "oppressively twee" â€” he finds that the brief animated sequences are the only moments in which the film’s "whimsy seems not only palatable, but winning." Similar sentiments are expressed by Ella Taylor at LA Weekly, who also sighs that "I doubt whether Potter, a woman who battled her way to fame, wealth and a pioneering spot in the conservation movement in a world where women mostly sat and sewed, bore any resemblance to this serenely girlish figure."
David Edelstein at New York points out that there’s more snap to Potter’s friendship with Emily Watson‘s spirited spinster Millie Warne than her romance with Ewan McGregor‘s Norman Warne â€” alas, he writes, "there is no Sapphic sisterhood," but he still thinks that "’Miss Potter’ hardly deserves ridicule." Stephanie Zacharek at Salon finds it actually deserves praise; she writes that "’Miss Potter’ is a very gentle-spirited picture, but it’s not a self-consciously precious one," and she adds that it’s "pure pleasure to look at."
Addressing the dubious charms of RenÃ©e Zellweger:
Edelstein: RenÃ©e Zellweger has rounded gerbil cheeks and squinched-up eyes; she looks less like Beatrix Potter than a Beatrix Potter illustration.
Taylor: Bronzed and russet all over, with quaintly autumnal production design to match, Zellwegerâ€™s Beatrix bustles about, flashing the Zellweger sour-lemons smile, dispensing maidenly charm and no-nonsense practicality…
Holden: "In â€œMiss Potter,â€ RenÃ©e Zellweger, her face pickled in cheeriness, is Beatrix Potter…"
Rabin: Chris Noonan’s…follow-up to 1995’s Babe casts an insufferably precious Zellweger as legendary children’s author Beatrix Potter…"
+ "Comedy of Power": A small and quiet release for Claude Chabrol‘s latest, which stars Isabelle Huppert as a magistrate investigating corporate corruption. Ed Gonzalez at Slant shares his theory "that every other Claude Chabrol production sucks," and writes that "we shouldn’t have to submit to such an unimaginative profile of a woman" (based on the theory, he does have high hopes for "La Fille CoupÃ©e en Deux"). Jim Ridley at the Village Voice is bemused by the film, which he thinks "has to be the most polite, untroubled conspiracy film since the genre first tapped a phone."
At the New York Times, A.O. Scott is fondest of the film, writing that
As ever, Mr. Chabrolâ€™s style is delicate and precise. â€œComedy of Powerâ€ is not his deepest or most ambitious film, and its stance of knowing resignation in the face of corruption can feel a little glib. But Ms. Huppertâ€™s ferocity compensates for the directorâ€™s detachment; no French actress is as riveting to watch once the gloves come off.