This movie was released theatrically back in March, 2008. I had heard some good buzz and really wanted to see it at the time, but it had a somewhat limited release and I wasn’t able to catch it in theatres here in Calgary. So I was eagerly looking forward to its recent DVD release, and I sure wasn’t disappointed! In fact, I actually (very indulgently) watched it twice in a row: back-to-back!
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is produced by Focus Features, the people behind Burn After Reading (released September 12, featuring an all-star cast including the hilarious duo of George Clooney and Brad Pitt, as well as George Malkovitch, Tilda Swinton and Pettigrew star, Frances McDormand) and acclaimed spoof Hamlet 2 (released August 22).
Set in 1939 London, this film takes us on a whirlwind ride with Miss Guinivere Pettigrew, middle-aged unemployed governess who decides – for once in her life – to take a chance, lying her way into a job as “social secretary” to aspiring American actress Delysia Lafosse (played brilliantly by Amy Adams of Enchanted fame). As an impostor in the glamourous world of the London “it” crowd, Miss Pettigrew is clearly out of her element: at first amazed and overwhelmed, then quickly disillusioned. Moved by tenderness for the charming but misguided Delysia, Miss Pettigrew decides to help her manage not only her busy social schedule, but also her overly busy love life. With three men on the go at one time, Delysia is frantic. Miss Pettigrew offers her the wise and timeless advice (and one of my favourite lines in the film): “sometimes choices just have to be made.” But watch out! The opportunistic Edythe knows what Delysia does not: that Miss Pettigrew is not who she seems. Will Edythe be able to turn this knowledge to her advantage? Well, she’ll certainly try. But will Edythe’s plotting spell disaster for Guinivere, or will her “terribly old-fashioned” values serve her well in the end?
This isn’t your typical Hollywood movie folks: it’s something much better! Refreshingly funny, poignant and thoughtful, Miss Pettigrew is kind of like a cross between Mary Poppins and My Fair Lady with a decidedly modern edge. The outdoor scenes have an oppressive and stormy feel, as if the very environment is charged with the tension of pre-WWII Europe, in spite of the artificial, almost defiant glamour of the indoor shots: all gold-leaf, red velvet, green drinks (that’s an inside joke: watch the movie!) and big bands.
The cast all deliver excellent multi-dimensional performances, but the two to watch are definitely Academy Award Nominee Adams and Academy Award Winner McDormand. Also worth paying close attention to is Lee Pace (of Pushing Daisies, among many other television, film and stage credits) as Michael Pardue, one of Delysia’s three competing suitors.
Be sure to swing by your local library and check out the book of the same title on which the movie is based, written by Winnifred Watson in 1938.
urbanmoms.ca staffer Kath is subbing for our regular Movie Mom, Margot, who’s being kept very busy being plain ol’ Mom to her two little guys.