Disheveled and worn down, Miss Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) goes from bad to worse.
Before the opening credits of “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” are finished, she gets fired from her job as a nanny, loses all of her possessions and can’t find a bite to eat.
Set in 1939 London, just as World War II is about to break out, Miss Pettigrew must try and make a go of it. What follows is an infectious comedy that becomes a wonderful drama.
Miss Pettigrew steals an employment assignment from her old boss and ends up at a penthouse attempting to become the “social secretary” for actress/singer Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams).
Immediately, we are bounced from one social gathering or high-society problem to another, mainly circling around Delysia’s multiple men.
First we meet Phil (Tom Payne), whom Delysia is trying to seduce in order to secure the lead in a play. Then there’s Nick (Mark Strong), the intimidating nightclub owner Delysia lives with and sings for. Lastly, we encounter sweet Michael (Lee Pace from “Pushing Daisies”), her devoted pianist.
Of course, Michael is the one to root for, but this film is more about the journey of a day than who ends up with whom.
Miss Pettigrew attempts to balance all of Delysia’s problems and one important result ensues: laughter. McDormand and Adams play off of each other with fantastic comedic timing.
I tried to think of a comedy that had two women as the leads, and the only one I could think of in the last 15 years was “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” with Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow. That’s sad, because McDormand and Adams are wonderful. Hopefully, they will fire up someone in Hollywood to create films that prove how funny women can be with the right material.
Adams is a brilliant chameleon. She seems nothing more than a shallow harlot at first, but as the film turns more dramatic there is a beautiful depth given to her character.
Meanwhile, McDormand turns in her best performance since her Oscar-winning role in “Fargo.”
Period comedies are a tough act to swallow for some, but if you are on the fence at all, please make sure “Miss Pettigrew” lives for more than just one day.
“Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day”
Final Score: 8 out of 10
Starring: Frances McDormand, Amy Adams, Lee Pace and Ciarán Hinds
Directed by: Bharat Nalluri
Other: A Focus Features release. Rated PG-13 (partial nudity). 92 minutes.