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 - all to the tune of 'Brother, can you spare a dime'. This 'day in a life' abruptly changes when Miss Pettigrew, still saddened by the loss of her beloved in WW I and struggling to be moral as the daughter of a clergyman in a world gone to tatters. How she finds one day of joy - and in the process changes the lives of those she encounters - is the line of the story, a screenplay by David Magee and Simon Beaufoy based on the novel of the same name by Winifred Watson and directed with a fine sense of timing and comedy cum pathos by Bharat Nalluri.
Quite by a fluke Miss Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) absconds the name of a potential client from her caustic job finder and rings the bell of one Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams), a beautiful young American manipulator of men living in one boyfriend's luxurious flat while entertaining others who may help her reach her dream of being a star on the musical stage. Delysia believes Miss Pettigrew to be a social secretary and immediately involves her in the game of her life of flirtation and illusion. Miss Pettigrew, at first shocked by the 'social setting', soon adapts and indeed supports Delysia's efforts of meandering through gentleman callers, and as Delysia finds Miss Pettigrew indispensible she dresses her well and introduces her to a life Miss Pettigrew finds quite foreign but equally fascinating. In rapid fire sequence, at times overlapping like a Keystone Cops movie, we meet Delysia's paramours (played with devilish glee by Tom Payne, Mark Strong, and Lee Pace) as well as high society dames (Shirley Henderson) and the one man who seems above it all - Ciarán Hinds. All of this wild dash through the superficial society affairs is played against the all but ignore threat of the impending WW II and it all happens in one day. But at the end of that day the bond between Miss Pettigrew and Delysia is genuinely sealed and for a moment at least it seems Miss Pettigrew's previously dour existence has changed.
A fine cast, an intelligent director, a creative cinematographer John de Borman, and a well informed musical director Paul Englishby make this bit of froth into a confection that contains some social commentary ingredients. The costumes and sets are splendid and provide a view of London before the devastation of the war that is rich in nostalgia. Not a great movie, but a delightful romp that allows McDormand and Adams the opportunity to demonstrate their considerable comedy gifts. Grady Harp, August 08
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, … more
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 … more
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 … more
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 … more
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 … more
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. … more
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 … more
Grady Harp is a champion of Representational Art in the roles of curator, lecturer, panelist, writer of art essays, poetry, critical reviews of literature, art and music, and as a gallerist. He has presented … more
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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 ...