5-Word 365 #248 – Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day

To the two or three of you who may have been slightly perturbed at the brevity of yesterday’s column, I apologise. I was trying something a little different yesterday: having a life. There were steaks involved, as well as a saucy little Rioja and an Italian chocolate cake with creme fraiche and raspberry coulis, and several episodes of Buffy. Good times. Don’t worry, it won’t happen again.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

My Amy Adams crush continues.

Guinevere Pettigrew is a strait-laced children’s governess who one day finds herself sacked and destitute on the streets of London. Stealing a job from the employment agency at which she is registered leads her to Delysia Lafosse, an American cabaret singer and wannabe actress. Thinking she is there to be a nanny, Miss Pettigrew accidentally becomes Delysia’s “social secretary” instead. Over a day and a night, Delysia shows Miss Pettigrew a glimpse of the good life while Miss Pettigrew shows Delysia that the good life is not all it’s cracked up to be. True love ensues.

It’s been a while since I watched an Amy Adams movie. As it goes, I could have chosen worse. The movie rights for Winifred Watson’s 1938 novel Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day were originally sold to Universal in 1939, but it took an impressive 69 years for it to make it to the cinema. The joint UK/US co-production was adapted by Brit Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) and Yank David Magee (Finding Neverland) and directed by Brit Bharat Nalluri. Nalluri has been successful in TV, particularly for the BBC, but his highest profile feature before this was The Crow: Salvation (the one with Kirsten Dunst).

The story of this screwball romantic comedy takes place in one 24-hour period on the eve of World War 2. Frances McDormand is Miss Pettigrew, a woman who has been somewhat left behind by the world since she lost her first love in The Great War who is brought out of her shell by her new employer. Amy Adams plays Delysia, a whirlwind of exuberance and sexy giggles who gradually reveals the nervous, insecure girl inside. Both are excellent, though I wouldn’t expect much else from these two at this stage of their careers.

The eponymous Miss P. herself. Don’t worry; the title is just figurative, not literal. This isn’t some weird Benjamin Button-type shit.

The two leading ladies are ably supported by Delysia’s trio of suitors: Mark Strong as rich nightclub owner Nick; Tom Payne as Phil, rich son of a West End theatre producer; and Lee Pace as Michael, the dirt-poor pianist at Nick’s club. It really won’t be much of a spoiler if you guess which one she eventually ends up with. Films like this aren’t built on ingenious plots or shocking third act twists. They are built on characters, their relationships and – in true screwball fashion – sharp, fun, fast dialogue. It is here where Amy Adams in particular excels. I would not be surprised to find out that she was on an IV of espresso between shots.

Nalluri and his production designer Sarah Greenwood have done a fantastic job recreating London of the swinging thirties. The exteriors are fine (although they’re in short supply) but the interiors are gorgeous, in particular Delysia’s – or Nick’s, strictly speaking – art deco penthouse apartment. The period detail all round is fantastic in fact, from Michael O’Connor’s costumes to Paul Englishby’s score. Some of the songs are a touch anachronistic according to IMDb, though not enough for anyone but an obsessive to really notice. Besides, they all fit the tone of the scenes perfectly and that is frankly more important.

Wait, where was I? Oh yeah, that’s right. My bunk.

This funny, witty, romp of a movie is just a joyous way to pass 90 minutes. If only all romantic comedies were like this.

4 comments

  1. todayiwatchedamovie · September 5, 2012

    I keep passing this up when I see it at the store. I need to stop that.

    • Ryan McNeely · September 5, 2012

      Yeah, definitely. If it helps to persuade you, consider this: Amy Adams’ apparently contractually-obligated underwear scene is present and correct.

  2. mistylayne · September 14, 2012

    You should NEVER apologize for watching Buffy!!! Also I meant to watch this when it came out then forgot all about it so thank you for the reminder!

Go ahead, punk. Make my day.

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