Director: Bharat Nalluri
With arguably her best written role since her Oscar nominated character penned by Cameron Crowe in Almost Famous, talented actress Frances McDormand has a chance to show off her funny, passionate and protective side in this richly intelligent and fun offering that, like Famous, surprisingly had nothing to do with her multitalented husband Joel and brother-in-law Ethan Coen.
Based on Winifred Watson’s 1938 novel, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day stars McDormand as the unlucky and hardworking title character Guinevere Pettigrew who finds herself out of yet another job as a governess in pre World War II 1939 London. In an act of desperation, she picks up on a lead for employment in the home of Delysia Lafosse (a terrific Amy Adams) and soon realizes that instead of work as a governess, she has found herself the new social secretary for the American singer hoping for her big break. Needing Pettigrew to navigate her romantic life which is growing increasingly complicated by her entanglements with three very different men all with something enticing to offer such as employment, a big break and true love, Delysia bonds instantly with her new friend and the two women embark on a day filled with adventure, misunderstanding and great fun for the audience.
A delightful and old-fashioned work that feels like an Oscar Wilde or Noel Coward play, Pettigrew is not only photographed in rich colors of the period with set and costume design eye candy but also contains a plethora of performances that seem modeled after the screen stars of the 30’s, especially in the case of the fast talking, charming Adams who reminds viewers of Irene Dunne, Carole Lombard and Claudette Colbert. With a witty script by David Magee (Finding Neverland) and Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty) and further evidence of the versatility of McDormand and Adams along with a star-making supporting turn from Lee Pace (who looks like Clive Owen’s adorable younger brother), Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day may take place over a breakneck twenty-four hour period but pulls viewers along with the cast from stop to stop, never overstaying its welcome and continually leaving us with a smile on our face, just like the perfect companion.