MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY
In 1939 London, middle aged, frumpy governess Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) is out of work yet again. Penniless and hungry she intercepts an assignment outside her comfort zone and becomes the 'social secretary' of glamorous American actress & singer Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams). Unexpected duties are required in this new high-society milieu, where Delysia juggles the three men in her life: nightclub owner Nick (Mark Strong), junior impresario Phil (Tom Payne) and devoted pianist accompanist Michael (Lee Pace). Miss Pettigrew instinctively guides Delysia in matters of the heart, under the watchful eye of ambitious fashion queen Edythe (Shirley Henderson). But Edythe is having problems of her own in her relationship with lingerie designer Joe (Ciarán Hinds), to whom Miss Pettigrew is drawn.
Review by Louise Keller:
Apart from a reservation about the casting of Frances McDormand in the title role, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is a joyous whirlwind of a grown-up fable urging us that life is short and to trust our hearts. In short, despite a faultless English accent, I couldn't stop feeling as though the seasoned actress was playing a role rather than becoming the dowdy Miss Pettigrew who finds herself like a fish out of water. It is the auburn haired Amy Adams with ringlets who steals the film and our hearts as Delysia, the ditzy, wide-eyed starlet with complicated morals, juggling her men like balls in a daring high-wire act. In a performance reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe at her breathy best, Adams is enchanting as she looks for guidance in her 'ongoing crisis' of a life. Based on Winifred Watson's novel, David Magee and Simon Beaufoy's witty script overflows with scrumptious situations, smart lines and abundant heart.
'The governess of last resort,' is how Miss Guinevere Pettigrew is described by the employment agency that refuses to send her for another job. When she surreptitiously steals an assignment meant for somebody else, she has no idea what her new role will involve. After rescuing an errant bra dangling from a chandelier for her new employer who is wearing a slinky pale pink robe trimmed with ostrich feathers, she finds herself acting as Delysia's human shield against the onslaught of male attention in her life. But as Miss Pettigrew confesses, she is not an expert on love, but on the lack of love. Shirley Henderson is in great form, slinking, smirking and scheming as the hoity-toity, manipulating fashion queen Edythe, and Ciarán Hinds is charismatic as the lingerie designer who can see through women. The three men in Delysia's life are as different as notes on the piano, but it is Lee Pace's pianist Michael, who loves her for who she is and not who she pretends to be, that wins us over.
Miss Pettigrew's make-over is good fun (especially when she hungrily eats the cucumber eye-masks) and I love the 30s lingerie parade (with Edythe's catty commentary), the elegant party soiree when hearts are tossed like a salad, and the nightclub scene in which all three of Delysia's men vie for her attention. There are divine settings and a good sense of place (on the eve of World War II) and the sharp contrast between the soup kitchen set to the elegance of the glamour set is nicely made. It's a charming film that's as light and welcome, as a breeze, delivering its message without heavy-handedness. If only Miss Pettigrew had been cast differently!
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MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY (PG)
CAST: Frances McDormand, Amy Adams, Shirley Henderson, Ciarán Hinds, Lee Pace, Tom Payne, Mark Strong
PRODUCER: Nellie Bellflower, Stephen Garrett
DIRECTOR: Bharat Nalluri
SCRIPT: David Magee, Simon Beaufoy (novel by Winifred Watson)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John de Borman
EDITOR: Barney Pilling
MUSIC: Paul Englishby
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Sarah Greenwood
RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 8, 2008