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Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Art House & International movie directed by Bharat Nalluri

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Tangled in Trysts

  • Aug 23, 2008
  • by
One would think pairing Frances McDormand and Amy Adams for `Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' would be irresistible. Adams stars as Delysia LaFosse, a hyperventilating American starlet living in England just before World War II. Here she reminds us of the charm she gave so easily in 'Junebug' and 'Enchanted (Full Screen Edition)'. McDormand, whose acting dexterity is only rivaled by the likes of Meryl Streep, gave us a flawless Minnesotan accent to go with a perfect performance in 'Fargo' and a Southern accent for her marvelous debut in `Blood Simple'. Now she plays the title character, a nearly homeless lower class woman with a dumpy wardrobe. And, yes, her gentle cockney accent is spot on. While both performances are up to snuff, the movie's breezy charm and sometimes droll development prevent the whole affair from taking full life.

At the beginning Guinevere Pettigrew's luck is about to worsen as her employment agency supervisor relates how she has obtained no favorable reviews for any of her work assignments. Showing ingenuity, she grabs a hold of the business card of a prospective client before she is dismissed for good. She then arrives at Delysia's upscale residence where the flummoxed starlet is fumbling to get ready for the day while still entertaining a lover in bed. Quickly, Guinevere learns of her many trysts, which Delysia tries to manage with lilting skill. There's Philip (Phil)[Tom Payne] in her bed; then Nick (Mark Strong) a nightclub owner who shows up at what turns out to be his place after all. Meanwhile, Michael (Lee Pace) has another offer she can't yet refuse.

Not merely relying on lust, Delysia dates Phil while trying out for a part in his London play; Nick often features her at his nightclub; and Michael has a stake as he offers to have her accompany him at a set of NYC shows. She's just a girl who can't say no.

Sorting out her priorities between work and love, Delysia needs Guinevere to give her a backbone and maneuver her through all her duplicity. Miss Pettigrew, the daughter of a minister, needs bread to feed her, but finds the job description "fraught with moral complexity".

There's plenty of charm to be sure. Just as one expects from the trailer, the movie does deliver a "Cinderella" makeover element that's fun to watch. Going to a fashion show luncheon, Delysia introduces her to Edyth Duberry (Shirley Henderson), the announcer, whose scathing commentary during Joe Blumfield's ladies underwear catwalk extravaganza only reveals the fury of a former fiance scorned. Edyth, who contributes to the `Pygmalion' transformation, expects to be repaid by Miss Pettigrew's smoothing finesse to heal the fissure in their relationship.

Call me curmudgeon, but it really takes until the second half for the movie to get its traction. I love feel good movies, and I love the ensemble gathered together, but the intended whimsy is fleeting like cotton candy instead of latter portions of the movie where it's deeper and richer like English pudding. World War II as a backdrop doesn't mean that much, except to show us the arrogant indifference (and sometimes fear) of Miss Pettigrew's aristocratic counterparts. In the end, 'Miss Pettigrew...' is cutesy, but often hollow.

A J.P.'s Pan 2.5*'s = Mediocre-Fair

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More Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day reviews
review by . May 03, 2013
INTRODUCTORY NOTE: THIS REVIEW IS ABOUT THE 1938 NOVEL...NOT THE 2008 MOVIE. TPK 05/03/2013   =-=-=-=-=-=-= English writer Winifred Watson (1906 - 2002) published six novels between 1935 and 1943. MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY (1938) was her third and an instant publishing success.    The titles of the novel's sixteen chapters are nothing beyond the mere times of parts of a work day and the following night of partying during which certain characters meet and interact, …
review by . March 30, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
feels like a 1920s cocktail party (although the movie takes place in 1939). The plot follows the chance encounter of Mss. Lafosse, a rich socialite, and Miss. Pettigrew, a governess. As the two spend more time together, their worlds and moral values collide. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day has a lot of energy. The dialogue is very quick and the charleston soundtrack sets a fast tempo. For the first hour, it almost feels like I'm watching an overcaffeinated movie. Nonetheless, Miss Pettigrew Lives …
review by . November 12, 2009
It's taken over 65 years for Winifred Watson's novel, MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY, to get to the movie screen, but it's been well worth the wait.    London is on the brink of World War 2, and times are tough; but things look particularly grim for one Miss Pettigrew (Frances McDormand). She's a children's nanny who can't seem to find her niche, instead living a desperate hand-to-mouth existance in the slums and soup-kitchens of the city; but everything turns around when she …
review by . June 06, 2009
Love and life have bypassed middle-aged Guinevere Pettigrew, who is the quintessential English governess, newly unemployed. Beautiful but ditsy American singer Delysia Lafosse is doing her utmost to land a plum role on the London stage. When Guinevere approaches Delysia in hopes of a job, opposites attract, and it isn't long before Guinevere sets her mind to helping her find true happiness. And to eating as much as she possibly can before this bubble bursts.    Miss Pettigrew …
review by . November 20, 2008
Over the years I've seen many film reviews that will label something as "frothy" or even a "frothy confection." This description never really spoke to me...but the other day, I watched MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY, and nothing could describe it better than a "frothy confection."     It's frothy because it's almost lighter than air. A lot of energy went into whipping it into something substantial...but the slightest pressure will deflate the integrity. It's a concoction because …
review by . October 14, 2008
I like quirky and slow moving films that are full of characters and creative elements. I liked Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day because that's exactly what kind of movie it is.    Miss Pettigrew, (McDormand) in a desperate attempt to stay off the streets hijacks an opportunity to become a social secretary for a very flaky and lost Delysia (Adams). Delysia, in an attempt to grasp stardom has scrambled and manipulated her way into a messy love quadrangle -- 3 guys with expectations. …
review by . August 23, 2008
The lead-in cinematic and musical elements for this delightfully entertaining, fast paced, little bit of nostalgia film prepares the viewer for the story as well as any 'overture' could. The setting is London in the 1930s, the day of the first blitzkrieg, and the tone of the imagery is that quiet depression and angst that tainted the world during that time. We meet our main character Miss Guinevere Pettigrew, a dowdy, middle-aged failed governess as she wanders through the streets and soup kitchens …
About the reviewer
John L. Peterson ()
Ranked #37
I am a substitute teacher who enjoysonline reviewing. Skiing is my favorite pastime; weight training and health are my obsessions;and music and movies feed my psyche. Books are a treasure and a pleasure … more
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About this movie


Based on a 1938 Winifred Watson novel,Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Dayis a colorful story about lives stalled in middle age but kick-started again by the follies of youthful lovers all around. Frances McDormand stars as Miss Pettigrew, whose inability to hold a job in London as a governess compromises her well-being shortly before England’s entry in World War II. Finessing her way into a position as social secretary to a young, American golddigger and singer named Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams), the starving Miss Pettigrew finds herself at the center of a whirlwind that is her new employer’s life. Hemmed in by lovers and suitors--including a young, theatrical producer (Tom Payne) looking to cast one of his pleasing girlfriends in a plum role; a creepy nightclub owner (Mark Strong) in whose flat Delysia lives; and a pianist (Lee Pace) who genuinely loves her--Delysia needs a map to figure out how to navigate through life. Miss Pettigrew, who suffered a loss during WWI that she does not speak of, nudges the naïve songstress toward wise decisions. But she is at the mercy of Delysia’s formidable friend (Shirley Henderson), who knows the truth about her impoverished state and is engaged to a much older man (Ciarán Hinds). The latter, a fellow of substance who seems to be meandering through life, falls instantly for the soulful Miss Pettigrew. Full of Art Deco trappings and paced with a vintage, screwball comedy energy,Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Dayis like ...
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Director: Bharat Nalluri
Genre: Comedy
Release Date: March 7, 2008
Screen Writer: Simon Beaufoy, David Magee
DVD Release Date: August 19, 2008
Runtime: 92 minutes
Studio: Universal Studios
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"Tangled in Trysts"
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