Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is a warm, lighthearted romantic comedy that is lifted far above the ordinary by terrific actors playing larger than life characters, gorgeous 1939 London setting and costumes, and its sense of pure fun.
In this whimsical tale where love conquers all, Miss Guinevere Pettigrew (Academy Award winner Frances McDormand, Fargo, Friends with Money, North Country), is summarily dismissed from her position as a governess…yet again. With neither savings nor job prospects from her employment agency, Miss Pettigrew’s only option is to seize the day. She intercepts an employment assignment meant for another and presents herself at a ritzy penthouse where she is hired to be the social secretary to the delicious American singer, Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams, Enchanted, Junebug).
Miss Pettigrew is immediately swept up in Delysia’s sophisticated social circle and meets the three men in Delysia’s life, all of whom can affect Delysia’s career: the intimidating night club owner (Mark Strong, Stardust) in whose penthouse Delysia resides, her devoted but penniless pianist (Lee Pace, Pushing Daisies), and the son of a producer who can put Delysia on the West End stage (film newcomer, Tom Payne).
Miss Pettigrew dives into her role as social secretary. She helps Delysia find her way through the maze of Delysia’s complicated life and loves. While doing so, Miss Pettigrew surprises herself by being drawn to a gentlemanly, sophisticated designer (Ciarán Hinds, There will be Blood).
Both women in the film have external personae that belie the reality beneath them. Frances McDormand excellently portrays Miss Pettigrew as her new-found strength overtakes her timid demeanor. Even her English accent is believable. Amy Adams captures Delysia’s glamorous, devil-may-care exterior with her small town girl’s heart beneath. She shines in her role.
For once, it is the men in the film whose parts are more stereotypical, yet Lee Pace, Ciarán Hinds, Mark Strong and Tom Payne all bring life and heart to their performances
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day greatly benefits from its outstanding direction by Director Bharat Nalluri who has seamlessly progressed to this film from directing low-budget zombie movies (The Crow: Salvation) and marathon second-unit shoots on studio monster movies such as Alien vs. Predator.
The movie’s production values are first-rate. Both the high life and low life of 1939 London are painstakingly restored on location in London and in the famed Ealing Studios. The period costumes are wonderful, from Miss Pettigrew’s shabby governess outfit to Delysia’s extravagant starlet wardrobe.
Since the action of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day takes place in a 24-hour period, certain licenses have been taken to make the plot work. So don’t question the implausible coincidences and improbable sequence of events, just sit back and enjoy this delightful fast-paced romp, full of romance, heart and happy endings.
Emily S. Mendel