Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
Rated PG-13; Directed by Bharat Nalluri; Starring Frances McDormand, Amy Adams, Shirley Henderson, Ciaran Hinds, Lee Pace, Mark Strong, Tom Payne
Cinderella stories are just inherently satisfying. In some versions there is an awkward young woman who blossoms into a beauty. There is the male version – a geeky awkward type who blossoms into a sexy geek. Sometimes the Cinderella story uses sports, sometimes it’s business, but they all change the protagonist in such a way that his or her peers are surprised at the change. I keep waiting for my own Cinderella story to come true, but as my fairy godmother still refuses to do her job, I can enjoy movies like Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, a Cinderella story with an older woman stretching beyond her confining boundaries.
In late 1930s England, Miss Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) is a desperate woman. Tossed from her most recent job as a nanny, with no money and no job prospects, she tricks her way into a job as social secretary of the beautiful Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams). Delysia’s life style is a far cry from what the staid, plain Guinevere has ever seen. Delysia is frantically juggling her life around three lovers. There is Nick (Mark Strong), the nightclub owner who pays for Delysia’s glamorous flat. Phil (Tom Payne) is the first-time producer of a West End musical who is considering Delysia for the lead. Then there’s Michael (Lee Pace), the piano player with no money at all. As Miss Pettigrew quickly begins to bring stability to Delysia’s life, Delysia brings a new appreciation of life in Miss Pettigrew. It’s always fun to watch an older character learn to spread his or her wings.
Both Frances McDormand and Amy Adams are perfect in their roles. Adams, who carried off the role of a fairytale character in Enchantment, manages to do the same again, but with a less innocent air. Her character could come off as annoying, but she makes Delysia’s problems worth caring about. McDormand (Fargo, North Country) creates a lovely character in Miss Pettigrew. She shows us the strength within the awkwardness – a perfect middle-aged Cinderella. The supporting cast helps out, especially Shirley Henderson as Delysia’s friend and Ciaran Hinds as a lingerie designer.
The one gripe about this film is how hard it is to understand what is said at times. Whether it is the sound engineering or just how fast the actors are speaking, some of what is said is lost.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is a silly trifle, with a plot that doesn’t offer many surprises, but keeps things sweet and entertaining. With two wonderful leading ladies and a fun story, the movie is perfect for putting in the DVD player while waiting for your own fairy godmother to do her job.