Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
Why so surprised? Oh … you were expecting someone else … I … know.


Golden Mug

2008 GOLDEN MUG NOMINEE:

Best Costume Design (Michael O’Connor)


Theatrical Release Date: 03/07/2008
Director: Bharat Nalluri
Cast: Frances McDormand, Amy Adams, Ciarán Hinds, Lee Pace, Shirley Henderson

In everyday life, there often are situations that call for a bit of tact, diplomacy or flat out pretending. Whether it’s a work sponsored party, meeting your in-laws or being out at a bar with some friends, one must usually adapt themselves to the environment to ruffle the fewest feathers. In “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day”, those situations seem to happen all the time and mostly to aspiring actress/singer Delysia Lafosse – played by Amy Adams.

She’s juggling not one, not two, but three different men in her life. One provides her with financial security, another with the promise of stardom and while the third can’t promise any material wealth, he can offer a life full of love. The film depicts the day when everything comes to a crossroads and she must choose what path the rest of her life will take.

To help her along with that decision is her new social secretary. Played by the fantastic Frances McDormand, the titular Miss Pettigrew is actually doing her share of pretending as well. Fired from her last few jobs for being a less than capable governess, she shows up at Delysia’s door hoping to earn a job and stay off the streets … all the while hoping no one finds out her destitute nature.

There is a tongue and cheek tone to much of the film and nearly every character is pretending to be someone they are not – presenting the message of the story. Oddly enough, this is one of the few films recently that presents a clear moral. While it doesn’t quite beat the audience over the head with it, from very early on in the film it’s quite obvious that the key to everyone’s happiness is to be honest about themselves and their intentions.

And while Amy Adams may not have her character’s name in the title, it is her performance that makes this film work. She carries her social butterfly of a character to wonderful and charming heights – creating an even greater contrast when her role demands a bit of sadness. She also gets to flex her beautiful singing voice, making me wish there had been room in the picture for more than one song.

The other performances are all decent but far from complicated, creating the only real drawback to the film. Whereas most films are about the changes people undergo in their lives, no one really has an arc to their character, aside partially from Adams.

Even Frances McDormand leaves the film pretty much as she entered. Sure, one could argue that she’s gained some self-confidence and self-worth – which leads to her own success. However, she was always a good person; just down on her luck and without opportunity. Thanks to her time helping Adams’ character find her center and exposure to the higher crust of London’s social circles, McDormand is rewarded with the opportunity to improve her situation.

Don’t take my negative comments too much to heart. Even some issues with the character’s complexities and with how director Bharat Nalluri set up the pacing for the last third of the picture, I thoroughly enjoyed the film. In fact, it’s one of the most refreshing films of the year so far.

The light tone, conniving characters and Amy Adams’ endearing and engaging performance all make for a good time in the theater. This may even be Adams’ best performance since Junebug. If you’re looking for a sweet comedy, go out and see this film.

I’m giving “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” a solid 3 out of 5. I enjoyed the relaxing nature of it and Adams always seems to give a captivating performance. There are “better” films in release right now but they are also more challenging and it comes down to what you’re looking for when you get to the theater. Some days you feel like ultra-realistic depictions of doom and gloom … some days you don’t. When you want the latter, feel free to check this film out.