Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

| March 23, 2008

Amy Adams, fresh from her Enchanted success, learns a few lessons from veteran Frances McDormand in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. McDormand plays Miss Pettigrew, a hungry, homeless and jobless woman who winds up becoming a social secretary for Delysia Lafosse, played by Amy Adams. Directed by Bharat Nalluri, Miss Pettigrew takes a long time to set up. The film spends the majority of its time establishing an upper-crust society consumed by illusions and egos, and making plain the cracks and insecurities inhabiting it. Miss Pettigrew, mindful of her own dire circumstances, gamely tries to keep up appearances for everyone. Ultimately, however, under the threat of the imminent World War II, she cannot pretend any longer. It is then that cards are shown and true character surfaces.
The best scenes in the film occur at the very end, which is a shame. The first half of Miss Pettigrew offers subtle clues that this overwrought society is headed toward war, but these clues are few and get lost amid the circus of Delysia’s sex life. The audience is as bewildered as Miss Pettigrew herself in this world, which might have worked if the scenes offered more humor. However, each time “Jeepers!” comes out of Amy Adams mouth, the film becomes less charming. McDormand does her best to ground the plot, but it appears too much for even her.
The depths of the movie are carried in the relationship between Miss Pettigrew and Joe (Ciarán Hinds), an important lingerie designer, who both remember the first World War. The younger people in the film attempt to create electricity and excitement enough, but their enthusiasm cannot balance against the experience and warmth that McDormand and Hinds offer. Overall, this film might make a good rental, but isn’t worth stepping out to see.

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