Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
Director: Bharat Nalluri
Novel: Winifred Watson
Screenplay: David Magee, Simon Beaufoy
Producers: Nellie Bellflower, Jane Frazer, Stephen Garrett
Starring: Frances McDormand, Amy Adams, Shirley Henderson, Ciarán Hinds, Lee Pace, Mark Strong
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 92 min
read my spoiler disclaimer

reviewed by Andrew James
      Fun. In a word, fun. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day gives its audience enough pleasure to live through a couple of hours and come away happier. While there's not much (or anything) to challenge your brain, you could find a lot of similar movies throughout the year that would instead fry your brain with inanity. Pettigrew is anything but inane.

      The great Frances McDormand stars as Miss Pettigrew, an out of work nanny desperately trying to keep a job, which would keep her off the streets, forcing her to beg for food and shelter. Miss Pettigrew is a tad uptight though and struggles to see eye to eye with any of her employers; costantly being fired. At her wits end, through strategery and luck, Pettigrew finds her way to the flat of Miss Delysia LaFosse; a somehow delightful young lady who is juggling three men at once with different motives and plans for each one. Pettigrew shows up just in time to save Delysia from the awkwardness of two of these men meeting unexpectedly. She does such a good job at saving the day that Delysia hires Pettigrew on the spot. The rest of the day is filled with rich girl errands, extravagant social gatherings and a series of moments in which Pettigrew must constantly "save the day" for Delysia.

      Along these travels, Pettigrew meets Joe (Ciarán Hinds), a wealthy lingerie designer who's engaged to the evil, cheating Edythe, played fantastically by Shirley Henderson. Edythe threatens to tell everyone that Pettigrew is really just a homeless woman posing as a social secretary if she does not agree to help her patch things up with Joe; with whom she's been having difficulty in their relationship. So begins matchmaking and awkward moments as Pettigrew is kept busy hiding one man from another, making stories and trying to keep her secret hidden. But Miss Pettigrew may just have her own ace of a plan hidden up her sleeve.

      The film takes place in pre-WWII London; and if I may be presumptious for a moment, I don't think it's too early to be looking ahead at the 81st annual Academy Awards. At least not in the category of set design or costuming. The number of gorgeous locales and variety of costumes for both the wealthy and the poor residents of mid-20th century England is really something to behold. It's quite impressive and easy to pay attention to while the simplicity of the story may be asking your brain for richer input. This is the sort of thing the Academy eats up in this category... as it should with this particular instance.

      So despite a terribly simple story that is so obvious and predictable a moth might even get wary of the proverbial flame, it is the acting that carries us through to the finale. We're truly looking at a tour de force without a dim spot to be found. For anyone who reads my writing regularly, they'd know I'm a huge Amy Adams fan. Ever since Junebug she can do no wrong in my eyes. In Pettigrew she is completely delightful, energetic and having so much fun you can't help but smile every single moment her face sparkles on the screen. Even though she's a wealthy, spoiled brat that uses men and appears to be as dim-witted as an A.D.D. caricature of the late Marilyn Monroe, she is too cute for words and simply lights up the screen. Some may argue that it's too much sparkle and not enough substance, and they might be right, but for this particular role and plot-line, nothing else would've worked nearly as well. Though I will say that her roles all seem to be larger than life and I would hope that soon she'll get into a few more jucier roles than just a Disney Princess or an over-acting rich girl. She's an extremely talented woman and I'd hate to see the word type-cast on her résumé.

      While Adams takes the scrumptious, chocolate trouffle of a screen nearly to herself, there's no one who can deny the long casting shadow of Frances McDormand. Her more subtle approach to her character is just what is needed to offset the glossy sheen of Adams' portrayal. It's the "less is more" theory of acting that truly works here and could be argued she may even steal a scene or two with her experience and again, sheer greatness.

      Another likely show-stealer is our villain, Edythe, played by Shirley Henderson. While not as memorable as an Anton Shigur or even a Cal Hockley, she's more of a Cruella De Vil type; with wickedness and cunning written all over her face. And just as intended, she brings a scowl from the audience member's faces each time she appears on screen. I do love me a good villain, and while I have little experience with Henderson's filmography, I do believe that's something I'm going to have to be remedying over the next 12 months or so.

      So while Miss Pettigrew is hardly the thick plot with layers of intrigue, it certainly delivers laughs in a broadway-esque, almost slap-stick sort of way. Again, while I cant give anything away, you'd be hard pressed not to see the ending of the film coming from fifteen miles away - or more accurately, 80 minutes away. I'll give you a hint if you couldn't guess, it ain't a downer of a film. Still, with bright faces and bold, colorful sets, it's nothing short of a good time; almost guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. The perfect date movie: full of fluff while being light and breezy; not hamfisted. So, as I opened this review, so shall I close: "fun!"

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