Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day Review

Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day is a delightful farce, an art deco soufflé, the perfect antidote to the credit crunch and rising gas prices – a Cinderella story for our time, and one that, charmingly, suggests that romance is not just for the young.

The romantically named Guinevere Pettigrew (McDormand) is possibly the world’s worst governess, and in pre-war London jobs are increasingly scarce; Miss Pettigrew is reduced to queuing at soup kitchens and spending the night at Victoria Station. Under false pretences, she goes for a job interview at the home of Delysia Lafosse (Adams, in full Marilyn Monroe mould), an American singer and actress, whose lifestyle is everything that the sheltered Miss Pettigrew should find abhorrent.

Within minutes she has rid Delysia of Phil (Payne), theatre impresario, one of three lovers who Delysia is juggling, just in time for Nick (Strong), who owns the apartment, to arrive. Miss Pettigrew sees immediately that Nick is not the man for Delysia, who admits that she is hypnotized by him, like a rabbit with a snake. Delysia, hugely grateful to Miss Pettigrew, sweeps her new ‘social secretary’ off to a fashion show where she meets the charming Joe (Hinds), a successful designer engaged to the haughty beauty salon owner Edythe (Henderson), the only person who seems to see through Miss Pettigrew’s charade.

On returning to Delysia’s home, Miss Pettigrew meets Michael (the very cute Pace), Delysia’s impoverished true love. He stands up to her and knows her; Delysia, determined on a career on the stage, is denying her love, but Miss Pettigrew sees immediately that they are meant for each other. And as the day goes on, she realizes that she may be able to save Delysia’s future.

Miss Pettigrew is an utterly charming film the success of which rests entirely on the slender shoulders of its two leading ladies. Frances McDormand is simply wonderful as Miss Pettigrew, combining a very real pathos and vulnerability with superb comic timing. She clearly delineates Miss Pettigrew’s inner turmoil; simultaneously attracted and repelled by Delysia’s louche and extravagant lifestyle. In her threadbare coat, frizzy hair and make-up free face, Miss Pettigrew is a child of the First World War and the Depression, and this is partly what draws Joe to her; they have similar experience.

Amy Adams, so wonderful in Enchanted and Junebug, is just perfect here as a foil for McDormand. She represents all that is glamorous, living a Hollywood lifestyle in London in an utterly fabulous Art Deco apartment. Her bathroom is to die for, as are her clothes. She is amoral, but very kind and generous, and only needs a couple of nudges to see what really matters. Miss Pettigrew is happy to provide, and her reward is to be Joe. Her finest moment is perhaps her duet with Michael, where she acts out her emotions through the song lyrics.

The film is beautifully made and very funny. The art direction is just perfect; you expect Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn to come swing dancing into frame at any moment. And the imminent commencement of hostilities gives an added urgency to Miss Pettigrew’s day. A charmingly fluffy and delightful treat.

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