Last week, I had the pleasure of watching Miss Potter, the movie about beloved childrens’ author Beatrix Potter’s climb to fame on the tale of Peter Rabbit. I mention it now because a week after the initial viewing, two memorable scenes have infiltrated my daydreams. The movie left me with a mushy disposition, which is inconvenient since I’ve sworn to be saucy forevermore. The first scene was a dance–a simple, clumsy, impromptu dance between Beatrix Potter (Renée Zellweger) and her publisher Norman Warne (Ewan McGregor). Norman serenades her with a tune (“When you taught me how to dance”) from her music box as he takes her hand and waltzes her around her secluded attic room. They are already in love, but too shy for eye contact; they twirl around like life-size replicas of the miniature dancing couple in her music box. The dance is so simple in execution, so pure in concept, and yet its simplicity is what makes it one of the most enduring love scenes I’ve seen on the big screen in a long time. I suppose I have a weakness for dancing couples and movie characters who sing these sad, idealistically hopeful songs. I’m reminded of Audrey Hepburn singing “Moon River” in Breakfast at Tiffany’s or to some extent, Paul Newman’s mournful rendition of “Plastic Jesus” in Cool Hand Luke.
The second scene is a kiss at a train station. I’ve seen the “train station farewell” played out countless times in movies before, but this one was special: I really believed they were in love. Beatrix Potter and Norman Warne were so shy, so Edwardianly proper that they reminded me of two shrinking wallflowers finally finding each other and engaging in a bashful courtship. Their first kiss was stolen, veiled in steam and London fog so that when it was over, their propriety was still intact. It was one of those grand, old fashion movie kisses that induces a lightness of being; you feel as if you are as light as air and the world around you is filled with possibility.