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 it is almost unrelentingly sweet and pretty much of no nutritional value.
This isn't to say it isn't fun to consume...because it certainly is.
Miss Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) is a dowdy, straight-laced nanny who has been fired from yet another job because she actually seems to insist on disciplining the children, and perhaps isn't a very good people person. It's the dawn of WWII in London, and there is simply no work to be found. In fact, she's trying to dig food out of the garbage, and is reduced to eating a soup kitchen, and she has lost all of her clothes except the old, brown items she's wearing. By "stealing" a job from her agency, she shows up at the door to a glamorous apartment, whose resident, Delycia (Amy Adams) is looking for a social secretary...a job Miss Pettigrew is not cut out for. Or so it would seem.
Delycia, however, is in the midst of a conundrum. She has one man upstairs in her bedroom (he's a theater producer, and Delycia wants to star in his next show...no matter the cost), but she needs to get rid of him, because the man who owns the apartment she's staying in is about to come over. Miss Pettigrew, almost despite her distaste for the situation, manages to extract Delysia from trouble, and Delysia takes an instant liking for her new "friend."
The movie essentially follows roughly a 24 hour period, in which we meet Delysia's several boyfriends, see the two new acquaintances head to a swanky lunch, pick out some new clothes for Miss Pettigrew, attend a fashion show, host a party and visit a nightclub. Everywhere they go, they meet the same little circle of socialites...a bunch of backstabbers, for the most part.
The movie mostly revolves around Delysia's need to decide which man is right for her (we know almost from the beginning, so mostly we're watching to see how Delysia gets there)...and even more enjoyably, watching Miss Pettigrew emerge from her shell and take some first, delicate steps towards truly reconnecting with mankind. The two women are just what the other needs to kick their lives forward. Not one moment of the film is truly surprising, and while there is plenty of sniping and scheming...no one is really an irredeemable villain.
While the film is not intellectually stimulating, it has lots going for it anyway. First of all, the costumes and sets are fabulous. The designers must have had the best time recreating the highest possible fashion of the time. (Pay special attention to Delysia's bedroom...it is a marvel.) I found myself literally grinning just looking at the movie.
And the performances are delightful. Amy Adams can't seem to fail to be charming. In ENCHANTED, she was warm, funny and irresistible. In MISS PETTIGREW...she's bubbly and full of life, but she's also neurotic and a bit of a floozy. Yet by the end, she's won us over. McDormand continues to do no wrong (in my book). What I like about her is that she can make herself appear plain, middle-aged bordering on elderly, dowdy, severe and humorless...and then in the twinkling of an eye, she drops 10-15 years, is radiant, intelligent and full of humorous mischief. The real fun of this film is watching her very subtle transformation.
I want to give special "shout outs" to Ciaran Hinds as the stuffy, reserved fashion designer who is intrigued by Miss Pettigrew, and to Shirley Henderson as the conniving Edythe. Hinds is just a amazingly commanding screen presence (I'm thinking of his imperious Julius Caesar in ROME), but here he shows his romantic side to really nice effect. Henderson is best known as Moaning Myrtle in the HARRY POTTER films...but here she is far from playing a teenager. Her distinctive voice serves her well in this juicy little role.
MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY is the kind of film you won't remember for long...but it was so delightful during its running time, and left me feeling good for awhile after its conclusion. Honestly, not many movies can even live up to that modest but admirable level.
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
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
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 … more
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 ...