Friday, March 30, 2012

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

by Pa Rock
Film Fan

Last night I came across the movie, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, on one of the Japanese movie channels.  The book of the same title was written by Winifred Watson and first published in 1938.  A movie version was soon planned because the material was so funny and touching,  but that project was scraped with the onset of World War II.  The book was re-released in 2000, and Hollywood discovered it once again.   The film finally came about in 2008.

This is the story of a governess, Miss Guinevere Pettigrew, who is experiencing trouble finding a position due in part to her penchant for being a tad too plain-spoken.  As the movie starts she has been reduced to seeking sustenance at the public soup kitchens of pre-World War II London, and she is having God-awful luck scoring a meal.  Through a little chicanery on her part, Miss Pettigrew steps into a position of social secretary to a floozy nightclub singer named Delysia Lafosse who is trying to sleep her way into a leading role in a new play on London's West End, all the while ignoring her piano-playing partner, Michael, who truly loves her.

Miss Pettigrew spends one day with Delysia and her pretentious and kooky friends, and in that short period manages to sort out everyone's complicated relationships - and find a relationship for herself.  Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is very reminiscent of the BBC television series, Jeeves and Wooster, with the domestic help being brighter and more practical than their more affluent bosses.   The jazzy soundtrack harkens back to Timothy Hutton's A Nero Wolfe Mystery - and it even has a bit of the feel of Some Like It Hot.   

Frances McDormand stars in the title role in this fast-paced comedy.  As Miss Pettigrew she is funny, she is hungry, and she is the sanest person in milieu of whack-a--doodles that make up the remainder of the cast.  Miss McDormand, who shines in every role she tackles, gives a stellar performance as Guinevere Pettigrew - and in my humble opinion,  she is the actress that Meryl Streep wanted to be.

Amy Adams is the airhead Delysia who has trouble sorting out what she really wants in life - but one day with Miss Pettigrew helps her to discover her priorities - beginning with the poor piano player played by the very talented Lee Pace.  Their duet of "If I Didn't Care" is a showstopper.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is a wonderful place of respite in a world that is moving too fast.

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