Brisk, peppy, light on its feet, and trying awfully hard to be reminiscent of a fast-talking Depression-era rags-to-riches comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day can be best described as inoffensive. But what saves the film from being disposable fluff is the casting of Frances McDormand as the prim, proper, middle-aged London governess of the title. McDormand carries herself with appealing dignity and sharp wit, even as her character unceremoniously gets the sack from her agency and has to think fast to avoid a doomed life of soup kitchens and sleeping in the gutter. Though she’s playing a dowdy wallflower who gets hurled into maintaining the busy, freewheeling life of an American starlet and would-be West End singer, Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams), McDormand makes it easy to see why the men in the film treat Miss Pettigrew with such gentlemanly sweetness; she has an attractively fast-working mind and a blesses sense of compassion—qualities this tremendous actress is able to convey through her on-screen physicality. Alas, the film itself is a simplistic Cinderella story about Miss Pettigrew learning how to value herself more as a woman than a “social secretary,” and also about Delysia figuring out which of her three adoring men she should end up with (it’s easy to choose, since only one of them is the token good guy). It’s clearly intended as a “woman’s picture,” if we are to limit the idea of what women are interested in to a checklist of fashion, shopping, giggling about sex, and juggling a career versus marriage. It covers a lot of territory while saying virtually nothing besides repeating the time-honored mantra that “love conquers all.”
- Focus Features
- 92 min
- Bharat Nalluri
- David Magee, Simon Beaufoy
- Frances McDormand, Amy Adams, Lee Pace, Ciarán Hinds, Mark Strong, Shirley Henderson
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