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Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day

2008-08-01 16:08
What it's about:

It's 1939 London, and Britain is about to go to war for a second time. Penniless governess Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) is thrown head first into the glamorous, dreamy world of high-society when she poaches another governess's interview after being fired. Little does she know that her new assignment as "social secretary" for American actress and singer Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams) is a challenge she has never before encountered. For one day she steers Delysia's matted love life and career with three men: a young impresario (Tom Payne), a menacing nightclub owner (Mark Strong) and a devoted piano player (Lee Pace). But can Miss Pettigrew navigate the sophisticated pretences of London's upper crust without being revealed as a fraud herself?

What we thought of it:

Based on the 1938 novel by British author Winifred Watson, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is a heartening romantic comedy about undertaking life-changing actions and living with the consequences, whatever (or whoever) they may be. It centres on making choices, any choice, as long as you make a conscious decision. Miss Pettigrew also touches on the idea that anybody can transform themselves to fulfil their dreams, even if you have to stretch the truth just a little.

Director Bharat Nalluri has brilliantly cast the high-society reminiscent of the crowd in F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby", and brings London's blithe pre-World War II upper crust flittingly to screen.

From the onset it feels as if the novel's title character, Miss Pettigrew, was written specifically for Frances McDormand. The Oscar winner adds so much depth to the shy Pettigrew who enters the film as a wallflower but through her interaction with Delysia and her romantic dilemmas becomes a decisive, confident magnet whose presence in a room cannot be ignored anymore.

That said, there are actually two protagonists, because without Delysia Lafosse, Miss Pettigrew would not find herself in the delightfully funny conundrums, making what seem like difficult choices to Delysia, using what's really just plain common sense.

Oscar nominee Amy Adams stole our hearts in the modern day fairytale Enchanted (2007), and brings that same mischievous innocence and vulnerability as the beautiful flibbertigibbet Delysia to this period fairytale. Adams and McDormand have a charming chemistry, and perfectly capture the conversational rapport of the mythical London between the wars – quick, sharp and clever. The dialogue is a welcome relief for audiences searching for witty linguistic comedy that doesn't rely on gross-out gags or inane situations, while the physical comedy is deliberately light and breezy.

But it's not only the leading ladies who are absolutely charming. Lee Pace, Tom Payne, Mark Strong and particularly Ciarán Hinds, Miss Pettigrew's potential love interest Joe, carry themselves with an air of 1930s debonair and glamour. Whether the supporting actors are struggling pianists, dodgy nightclub owners, ladies' brassiere designers or young theatre owners, they all fit perfectly into an intriguing ensemble of truly amusing characters.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is as light and frothy as its characters and is recommended for anybody looking for a few good giggles from an undemanding but witty romantic comedy.

- Megan Kakora

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A poor governess becomes a social secretary to a glamorous actress in a romantic period-piece comedy that bubbles with sharp wit and even sharper dialogue.

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