Miss Pettigrew Lives For
a Day - A Critical Analysis
Miss Guinivere Pettigrew is a frumpy
middle-aged woman who has just been sacked from her job as a nanny. Her
strong will has made her no friends, and her employment agency is
reluctant to try matching her up yet again when disaster may follow.
Delyssia Lafosse is a beautiful young woman attempting to make a name
for herself as a starlet. In the process, she has managed to entangle
herself with three very different men, and big decisions loom ahead.
When Miss Pettigrew shows up at her door, having overheard that she
needs a personal assistant, neither woman dreams of the heartache and
hilarity that will follow in this charming dramedy set in England on the
brink of World War II.
As she so often does, Amy Adams radiates
exuberant innocence in this role, even though this is a woman who has
been around the block a few times. The elegant Delyssia's romantic
relationships are messy, and Adams wonderfully conveys the comedy of the
situation, as well as the confusion. Should she marry for the
possibility of wealth, prestige and the movie career she's always
dreamed of? She has that option. But it takes very little time for the
viewer and Miss Pettigrew alike to see the special spark that exists
between Delyssia and Michael, a starving musician played by Lee Pace of
There's a sweetness to this relationship that matches the core
relationship in that quirky canceled ABC show. Adams and Pace make a
very convincing couple, so it's easy to root for their success, though
throughout the movie, directed by Bharat Nalluri, the economic
implications of such a pairing are painfully clear.
Frances McDormand is engagingly off-beat as she brings to life this
older woman with a strict sense of morality as well as a romantic
streak. Miss Pettigrew and Delyssia come from very different worlds, but
it isn't long before they bond, and it makes no difference to the
flustered young woman that her assistant is winging it and having quite
a struggle fitting in to high society. She encourages her employee to
live it up a little, while Miss Pettigrew offers sage advice throughout
the day that helps her to focus.
Fans of the Harry Potter series will recognize high-voiced Shirley
Henderson as Edythe DuBarry, a sniping friend of Delyssia's who is both
condescending and conniving. Miss Pettigrew discovers just how spiteful
she is capable of being when she uncovers a dark secret about her.
Meanwhile, Edythe's older fiance Joe is a perfect gentleman, and Ciaran
Hinds brings a wonderful warmth to this character who understands better
than anyone else what sort of turmoil Miss Pettigrew has gone through in
her life. Though they have never met before, their shared experience of
the Great War bonds them in a powerful way.
Like "Moulin Rouge," this is a movie that deftly walks the line between
tragedy and comedy. When it's funny, it's laugh-aloud hilarious, with
sight gags and slapstick and unapologetic silliness, all dressed up in
bright, splashy colors. But Miss Pettigrew understands, as Delyssia does
not, that the world can be a truly dark and terrifying place, and part
of this movie involves losing that sense of innocence.
"Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day" is rated PG-13 for some sexual
situations, but it would certainly be appropriate for teenagers, for
whom the title character's words of wisdom might be most valuable. A
beautifully made movie anchored by the performances of two astounding
actresses, this film fills the spirit and encourages everyone who
watches it to treasure each and every day as fully as possible.