Chemistry between actors, a great look and well-timed pacing can often render imperfections in film almost unnoticeable. “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” manages this trick nicely, and makes it look as easy as making tea and toast.
Miss Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) is a down-and-out governess living in 1939 London. The threat of war looms over all, but Miss Pettigrew’s concerns lean toward the more immediate: She can’t hold down a job. Dismissed from her agency, Miss Pettigrew steals an assignment working as a “social secretary” for vivacious young cabaret singer and aspiring actress Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams) who’s juggling three different men.
Visually, “Miss Pettigrew” is perfect. The elaborate ornamentation of 1939 London, with its late-period art deco atmosphere, extravagant interior decoration and costumes, is the perfect backdrop for a story about people coming to terms with the falsity of their surface identities. The screwball-comedy story line itself is a little simplistic, but the cast is so likable, it doesn’t matter.
McDormand, who is not only a strong actor, but has a great gift for accents (see “Fargo”), is perfect. Adams, fresh off “Enchanted,” is also perfect as the high-energy, flirty sexual dynamo Delysia, who will do anything (and possibly anyone) to get her career off the ground.
The comic tension and instant affection between the two is actually the engine that drives the movie. Despite the somewhat predictable plot and ending, “Miss Pettigrew”‘s strengths easily overcome any minor weaknesses.