Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
Posted on August 26, 2008 at 8:00 am
A delicious retro romp about a failed nanny who finds her true calling when she transforms the life of a flighty singer, this film is designed around two fabulously entertaining stars, Frances McDormand and Amy Adams.
McDormand is Miss Pettigrew, who begins her day fired from her umpteenth nanny position and with absolutely no prospects. When the placement agency refuses to send her on another interview (“She found you rather difficult and that is, I am afraid, a recurring theme”), Miss Pettigrew steals the address of a prospective employer and shows up to find herself immediately in the midst of complete chaos. Delysia (as in Delicious) Lafosse (Amy Adams) is a singer who is currently involved with three different men. One of them is asleep in her bed, and another is on his way over. Miss Pettigrew’s calm demeanor, resourcefulness, and ability to think fast in a crisis make her immediately indispensable to Delysia, who rewards her with a makeover.
As Miss Pettigrew gets pulled into intrigues involving Delysia and her friends, she blooms. Instead of seeing herself through the eyes of others as a dowdy misfit, she sees herself as someone who is perceptive, constructive, needed, and finally, someone who is desired.
And Delysia, who has always understood that she is desired, learns the difference — and the importance — of being valued.
All of this happens in one heady day in which the world seems to be spinning especially fast. While the characters pursue frivolity — musical theater, fashion, parties, there is the specter of war everywhere. The point is lightly made that the characters, like the world around them, are losing some of their innocence but gaining depth, understanding, and fortitude.
Adams continues to be an enchanting screen presence and it is easy to imagine that three men could be easily dazzled by her. She has the ability to put a dozen meanings into a single smile, confidence and insecurity, nerve and doubt, ambition and ambivalence, giddiness and resolve. McDormand, who also produced, gets a chance to show off her comic timing and understated earthiness. The story takes too long with a detour into a storyline involving Delysia’s duplicitous friend, but comes alive again when Lee Pace enters as Michael, the third of the men in Delysia’s life.
Director Bharat Nalluri creates an authentic period feeling not only in the setting but in the story itself, making the film feel like a neglected classic, very much of its era but classic rather than old-fashioned. It may be traditional, but it is not the slightest bit musty.
Parents should know that the movie includes frequent sexual references and some non-explicit situations including brief male nudity. One of the characters has sex with men to further her career and another cheats on her fiance. Characters drink and smoke and use some mild language.
Families who see this movie should talk about what made Miss Pettigrew more successful in this job than she was in her others.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The More the Merrier.