In 1939 London, Miss Guinevere Pettigrew is a middle-aged governess who finds herself once again unfairly dismissed from her job. Without so much as severance pay, Miss Pettigrew realizes that she must--for the first time in two decades--seize the day. This she does, by intercepting an employment assignment outside of her comfort...
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In 1939 London, Miss Guinevere Pettigrew is a middle-aged governess who finds herself once again unfairly dismissed from her job. Without so much as severance pay, Miss Pettigrew realizes that she must--for the first time in two decades--seize the day. This she does, by intercepting an employment assignment outside of her comfort level--as "social secretary." Arriving at a penthouse apartment for the interview, Miss Pettigrew is catapulted into the glamorous world and dizzying social whirl of an American actress and singer, Delysia Lafosse. Within minutes, Miss Pettigrew finds herself swept into a heady high-society milieu--and, within hours, living it up. Taking the "social secretary" designation to heart, she tries to help her new friend Delysia navigate a love life and career, both of which are complicated by the three men in Delysia's orbit; devoted pianist Michael, intimidating nightclub owner Nick and impressionable junior impresario Phil. Miss Pettigrew herself is blushingly drawn to the gallant Joe, a successful designer who is tenuously engaged to haughty fashion maven Edythe--the one person who senses that the new "social secretary" may be out of her element and schemes to undermine her. Over the next 24 hours, Guinevere and Delysia will empower each other to discover their romantic destinies.
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A charming mix of screwball comedy and poignant romance, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is lighthearted period fun.
Drab, prim, and more than a little prudish, Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) isn't a very good governess--her rigid personal beliefs keep getting in the way of her ability to hold a job. Homeless and hungry on the streets of 1939 London, she's on the verge of despair when fate sends her to Delysia Lafosse's door. Flighty, enthusiastic, and impulsive, Delysia (Amy Adams) is a club singer with aspirations of becoming a serious actress; to achieve her goals, she'll literally charm the pants off of any man who can help her--even at the risk of losing her one true love forever. Equally shocked and fascinated by Delysia's sophisticated, fast-paced, colorful lifestyle, Miss Pettigrew uses her brief time as the young woman's faux social secretary to try to save her from herself. At the same time, she begins to let go of old fears and finds the way to her own happiness.
Miss Pettigrew benefits immensely from the strengths of its two stars. McDormand is both funny and affecting as the title character; she plays a recurring gag in which Miss Pettigrew almost gets to eat with just the right notes of humor and pathos. The twinkle in her eye as she takes the measure of Delysia's world is convincingly conspiratorial, and her scenes with co-star Ciaran Hinds, who plays courtly lingerie mogul Joe, are both sweet and realistic. Adams, meanwhile, is just as captivating as she was in Enchanted. Delysia's perky effervescence hides both determination and vulnerability, and Adams mixes all three elements expertly. The ladies get strong support from their fellas, particularly Hinds and Pushing Daisies' Lee Pace, who plays Delysia's poor-but-ardent suitor Michael. And Shirley Henderson is perfectly poisonous as socialite/salon owner Edythe.
Parts of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day have a distinctly screwball feel -- particularly the early scenes in which Miss P. arrives at Delysia's and must immediately juggle four or five different crises for her new client. The brink-of-World War II setting, with its cocktail parties, jazz clubs, and dames in bright red lipstick, encourages that association. But director Bharat Nalluri's movie is also a touching romance with scenes of true poignancy that centers on a complex, mature heroine who knows life isn't all roses. His ability to balance the two yields a genuinely funny, accessible comedy that has some real depth to back up its lighthearted romping. Even if, like Delysia, Miss Pettigrew is only a passing presence in your life, you'll likely remember her quite fondly.
Hollywood.com rated this film 3 stars.
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