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United Kingdom 2008
Directed by
Bharat Nalluri
90 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day

Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day is exactly what it sets out to be – a stylish comedy that looks back nostalgically to more innocent kinds of diversion than to which we are now accustomed. 

Frances McDormand plays Miss Guinevere Pettigrew, a rather short-tempered, recently sacked nanny who in Depression-era London on the eve of WWII uses a little deceit to get herself a job as a social secretary for nightclub singer and aspiring starlet, Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams). A clergyman’s daughter Pettigrew is shocked to find that Delysia has three boyfriends: Nick (Mark Strong), a nightclub owner at whose club Delysia sings, Phil (Tom Payne), the neophyte producer of a West End play in which Delysia wants the lead role; and Michael (Lee Pace), a penniless piano player and the only one who truly loves her. Miss Pettigrew not only has to manage this situation but she is also caught up in the rocky relationship between Edythe (Shirley Henderson), a calculating couturier, and Joe (Ciaran Hinds), a suave lingerie designer.

Based on the novel by Winifred Watson the film is a comedy of manners. It is something, needless to say, which the English excel at and although this is an American production (Watson originally sold the rights to Universal in 1939 who were going to, but never did, make the film with Billy Burke in the title role and still held the rights through Focus Features, the subsidiary which made this) it is a more than adequate adaptation with much of the liveliness of a theatrical production.

Made in the UK with the spirit of the book well translated, it is in many ways a relief not to see Julie Walters in yet another typecast role as Pettigrew. Leading tip-top performances McDormand and Adams who interact well, the former commonsensical and plain-speaking, the latter, all froth and bubble, at least on the surface, whilst Shirley Henderson is all cut glass as Delysia’s icy friend. The production and costume design is delightful and the film's madcap spirit provides charmingly old-fashioned entertainment.




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