Friday, March 7, 2008

Miss Pettigew Lives for a Day

“I, for one, am not running around town with Oliver Twist’s mom.”

Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams) is a lounge singer and aspiring actress. She’s sweet, lovable, and willing to use her sexual wiles to make her dreams come true. As the film opens Delysia is dating three men: the owner of the club where she works (Mark Strong) who provides her with a luxurious apartment, a young Broadway producer (Tom Payne) who is casting a coveted role, and Michael (Lee Pace), a penniless piano player and the love of her young life.

Into this juggling act arrives Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand), an out of work governess unable to find work. Taking the job as Delysia’s social secretary under less than reputable circumstances, Mrs. Pettigrew becomes the friend and older sister Delysia so needs.

There’s not much to the plot other than misunderstandings and white lies. Almost everyone here could do what the script calls for in their sleep. McDormand is the star of the piece. Adams is sweet as the lovable mixed-up tart. And everyone else is mostly forgettable.

Aside from Delysia’s confused relationships there is also a subplot about a tenuous romance between Delysia’s devious best friend (Shirley Henderson) and a fashion designer (Ciarán Hinds) who seems to have much more in common with Miss Pettigrew than his intended. I don’t really need to tell you how the film ends, do I?

Like Mrs. Henderson Presents (but not as good) the story is set in London during WWII. Occasionally sirens bring dread of things to come, but in this film this is as close to reality as the story ever gets.

There’s a running gag throughout the film, which takes place, mostly, in a single day, about Mrs. Pettigrew’s inability to sit down and eat. It’s a fine gag, although the payoff isn’t as good as I expected. This inability to not quite live up to the promise of the piece, never delivering more than is expected (and sometimes far less) is the film’s major failing.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is everything you expect, and nothing more. The cast is charming, and the story is predictable. For those needing a 92 minute escape into a movie which doesn’t ask much of the audience (or the actors) here’s the movie for you.

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