"Art makes life, makes interest, makes importance"

March 24, 2012

"Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day" (2008) by Bharat Nalluri

There are times that a full-bodied red wine is most suitable, but also moments that bubbles are best. In other words, sometimes it is good to enjoy a frothy, sparkling romantic comedy like Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, filmed in beautiful period style and magical colors by Bharat Nalluri. This film is in the first place an "actors film," it is the ensemble of Frances McDormand as the solid Miss Pettigrew and Amy Adams as her flamboyant and charming employer Delysia Lafosse - a quick-silvery personality who is subject to ever changing moods and whims - that carries the whole film. Amy Adams reminded me of Jean Arthur or Jean Harlow. Period detail is just as perfect as the casting in this film, including the satin gowns and the fabulous antique cars.

Miss Guinevere Pettigrew is a middle-aged, straight-laced governess, who keeps getting fired as she can't get along with her employers (she has a wonderful way of arching her eyebrows to put people off) - something rather serious in depression time 1939 London. The employment office refuses to help her any longer, but she overhears a name and address meant for a colleague and quickly heads there.

As soon as she arrives it is mayhem, for American singer/actress Delysia Lafosse storms around in her pink negligee, trying to balance relations with three different men: the noble Michael (Lee Pace), a penniless pianist; the tough Nick (Mark Strong), who owns the nightclub where Delysia performs and who also pays for her flat and upkeep; and pretty-boy Phil (Tom Payne), a young impresario from whom she seeks a leading role in a new play. With a sturdy hand, Miss Pettigrew shores up the fluttering Amy, sorting out her affairs, and actually enjoying herself like never before as partner in deception. She even has to pretend to smoke cigars to put Nick off the scent when he detects a stub in an ashtray. In recompense she now enters high society herself - getting a very necessary make-over in the process. One running joke in the film is that Miss Pettigrew never manages to eat - people bump into her so that she drops her plate, etc. - so when cucumber slices are applied to the skin of her face, she quickly consumes them.

At a fashion show she meets lingerie designer Joe Blomfield (Ciarán Hinds), who is involved in an on/off relationship with squeaky-voiced socialite Edythe Dubary (Shirley Henderson). Edythe asks Miss Pettigrew's help to sort things out for her as well, but it seems Miss Pettigrew and Mr. Blomfield feel some magic of their own...

The whole story takes place in just 24 hours and both leading women of course don't fail to achieve their romantic destines, albeit after a lot of giddy screwball-type confusion. They also draw close to each other, making Miss Pettigrew into a sort of female "buddy" movie. But the film also has its quiet moments - Europe is after all gearing up for the second destructive war in a quarter of a century - and as a whole it is delicate and gentle-spirited rather than a shouting match.

Great fun, long live the bubbles!

My evaluation: 9 points out of 10 for Joe Blomfield's underwear fashion. 
Salon; Reelviews; Combustible Celluloid.