Guinevere Pettigrew just can’t catch a break.
First, the middle-aged governess in late-1930s London is unceremoniously fired without pay. Then, her single suitcase of possessions falls open when she bumps into a man just getting out of jail. Frightened and embarrassed, she abandons her stuff. The unassuming woman is bumped again at a soup kitchen and loses her last chance at a meal.
When she calls at her employment agency the next morning, she’s told she’ll never get a job from them again. So we don’t blame Miss Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) when she steals the calling card of a woman looking to hire someone.
When she arrives, she’s immediately told by the fluttery American singer Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams) to wake up her boy. But instead of the young charge Miss Pettigrew expects to find, it’s a grown man in bed. The owner of Delysia’s flat is about to arrive and wouldn’t be too happy to find another man there.
Miss P, a vicar’s daughter, is shocked by the proceedings — though she quickly dispatches the “crisis.” Delysia, who wants to hire her as a social secretary, begs her to stay. “The crisis is ongoing,” she cries.
The red-headed Miss Adams, who just performed a song from the Oscar nominated “Enchanted” at this year’s ceremony, is so enchanting here in “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” that Miss P is simply swept along on her energy, much as the audience will be by this supremely delightful film.
Delysia needs some help sorting out her love life. We know, however, as soon as we meet him which of her three suitors is “the one.” There’s the rich nightclub owner Nick (Mark Strong), the West End producer Phil (Tom Payne) and the impoverished pianist Michael (Lee Pace).
She’s not the only one with love problems. Joe (Ciaran Hinds) has just broken off his engagement with Delysia’s friend and stylish boutique owner Edythe (Shirley Henderson), suspecting her of infidelities. Miss P knows the truth, but Edythe also knows the truth about Miss P — that she’s not the connected social secretary she’s led everyone to believe she is.
But she comes to look like one by the middle of the day, after Delysia arranges for a makeover. While sorting out the lives of others, it appears Miss P may get another chance at one herself.
The Oscar-winning Miss McDormand has a serviceable British accent but a very satisfying grasp of her character, playing it with just the right mix of humility and principle. The captivating Scottish actress Miss Henderson is far too seldom seen on these shores, and her grace manages to make her minx sympathetic.
The pleasures of this old-fashioned film aren’t all superficial, though it’s certainly a light and sparkling romantic comedy. When Miss P watches the reaction to the sound of British warplanes and comments, “They don’t remember the last one,” while Edythe calls them simply “magnificent,” it’s clear that there’s a serious subtext to the sometimes farcical events.
TITLE: “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day”
RATING: PG-13 (some partial nudity and innuendo)
CREDITS: Directed by Bharat Nalluri. Written by David Magee and Simon Beaufoy based on the novel by Winifred WatsonView Entire Story
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