Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
dir Bharat Nalluri
scr David Magee, Simon Beaufoy
with Frances McDormand, Amy Adams, Shirley Henderson, Ciarán Hinds, Lee Pace, Mark Strong, Tom Payne, Christina Cole, Stephanie Cole, Sarah Kants, Matt Ryan, Mo Zinal
release US 7.Mar.08, UK 15.Aug.08
08/UK 1h32
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
High society: McDormand and Adams

henderson hinds pace
edinburgh film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day Set in early WWII London, this sweet confection of a movie is fluffy and cute on the surface, with a surprisingly bitter and pointed centre. And credit goes to the actors for getting the balance just right.

Guinevere Pettigrew (McDormand) has been sacked from so many jobs as a nanny that she's run out of options. So she intercepts a prospective client, the spoiled socialite Delysia (Adams), and then has to improvise as a social secretary, juggling Delysia's three boyfriends: the penniless musician (Pace), the young theatre producer (Payne) and the wealthy club owner (Strong). Delysia wants something different from each, and it's up to Guinevere to help her choose. In the meantime, she meets Delysia's designer buddy Edyth (Henderson) and her wealthy fiancé Joe (Hinds). It's easily the best day of Guinevere's life.

The script has a delightfully freewheeling tone to it, as Guinevere's day gets off to a terrible start and it's all she can do to keep up with the whirlwind of activity around her, making split-second decisions and watching everyone head beyond the point of no return as the farce expands. There's not a lot to it really--no deep underlying message other than an exploration of women's roles in society at the time.

What makes the film more than watchable are the terrific central performances by McDormand and Adams, who add a layer of serious undertone to their otherwise breezy, comical characters. Both of these women are living lives that don't belong to them, and as they begin to see the reality, everything has to change. Frankly, the men are little more than putty in their hands, but the actors do the most with the roles.

Everyone here is utterly charming, so the film can hardly help but keep us smiling. Even the farcical story isn't too taxing; it never escalates into all-out chaos, staying just this side of believability. And if in the end it feels rather silly and inconsequential, we know that there has been real depth in the eyes of the two central actresses--moments we identified with and things we thought about. Even if the film is really just a bit of fun.

cert pg themes, innuendo 4.Jun.08

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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall