- Rated PG-13
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All photos © Focus Features
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
ou’d be hard-pressed to find a movie as light and fluffy as “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day," but with so many films dominated by over-complicated plotlines and unnecessarily long runtimes, it’s nice to come across a film that does exactly what it sets out to do – with almost no interruptions. Fast and furious from the get-go, "Miss Pettigrew" starts out with a bang and never lets up, implementing its screwball sensibility to the fullest thanks to solid performances from stars Frances McDormand and Amy Adams. Though it could prove difficult finding an audience for a period comedy designed exclusively for the ladies, count on the film to instead provide the perfect spring appetizer to an otherwise male-friendly summer season.
McDormand stars as the title character, Guinevere Pettigrew, a strict and stubborn London-based governess whose luck (little as it may be) is beginning to run out. When she’s fired from her latest job and refused a new assignment from the local agency, Miss Pettigrew improvises by posing as the social secretary for Delysia Lafosse (Adams), a bubbly lounge singer looking for her big break. Juggling relationships between three different men – Phil (Tom Payne), the young producer of a West End play; Nick (Mark Strong), a slick nightclub owner; and Michael (Lee Pace), her longtime piano player – Delysia calls on Miss Pettigrew to help guide her through “the most important day of [her] life.”
As it just so happens (and as the title clearly suggests), this is the most important day of Miss Pettigrew’s life as well, but for very different reasons. While Delysia stresses over her simultaneous attempts to forward her career with Phil, live luxuriously through Nick, and experience true love with Michael, Miss Pettigrew is simply enjoying the Cinderella treatment she’s been gifted for the day. Along the way, however, Pettigrew not only offers sage advice as to which path Delysia should choose, but also finds company in Joe (Ciarán Hinds), a famous fashion designer who seems to be the only other person in town that fully understands what the pre-WWII environment means for the fate of England.
Any fan of romantic comedies could tell you what happens next, but despite the predictable and brainless nature of the story, it’s easy to forgive as long as it entertains. With the exception of a last-minute afterthought about the impending war, “Miss Pettigrew” does just that, and it’s all thanks to a competent director and an excellent cast. Frances McDormand is endearing in the title role, but this is Amy Adams’ movie through and through, once again stealing the show with her high-energy performance as the ditzy (but loveable) Delysia Lafosse.
Of course, without director Bharat Nalluri, the movie could have easily fallen apart. Best known for his work on British TV series like “Hustle” (as well as the hugely underrated HBO movie “Tsunami: The Aftermath”), Nalluri might not have the range of a big-budget director, but he fares just fine in character-driven pieces such as this. He also deserves credit for reining the film in at a breezy 92 minutes, and while no guy will want to sit through such Doris Day-esque fluff (no matter how short), it’s the perfect getaway for any female looking for a quick shot of romantic bliss.
Single-Disc DVD Review:
Considering “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” is a relatively small picture, it only makes sense that its DVD extras follow suit. Highlighted by an audio commentary with director Bharat Nalluri, the single-disc release also includes a respectable collection of deleted scenes, a production featurette on the origins of the story (“Miss Pettigrew’s Long Trip to Hollywood”), and a making-of featurette (“Making an Unforgettable Day”) that doesn’t skimp on the behind-the-scenes details. Of course, Universal’s decision to hide the latter extra on the flip side of the disc is a bit unnerving, but it’s a minor disturbance on an otherwise solid DVD release.