Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day (PG-13)
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The movie based on a 1938 novel, of which I know nothing. But it's set in London shortly before World War II; I'm not sure precisely when, but I suppose it must have been set at the same time the book was written, which in retrospect makes it feel slightly prescient, or at least incredibly timely. Of course, I can't say how closely the movie adheres to the book, and it could be that the filmmakers added details having the benefit of hindsight. I don't know. Anyway, there are some dramatic moments in the movie when characters are well aware that war is imminent, and that actually plays an important part in certain plot points, on a personal level. However, it's far from the focus of the story.
It begins with a middle-aged woman named Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) getting fired from a job as a governess. This is apparently partly because she's not very good at it, and partly because she simply finds herself incapable of accepting certain aspects of her employers' lifestyles, which she considers a bit inappropriate. This is because Miss Pettigrew had been raised by a clergyman, so her own attitudes are perhaps a bit too rigid. Anyway, it's the fourth such job she's been fired from, and the employment agency is no longer willing to place her in any jobs. So, she steals a business card of a new client named Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams), who had a job opening. She goes to Delysia's flat, expecting the job is for a governess, but soon discovers the young woman actually wants a social secretary.
Delysia is a singer at a night club, and the club's owner, Nick, also happens to be the owner of the flat where Delysia is staying. And they're in a relationship. Sort of. But Delysia is also involved with two other men. One is a young theatre producer named Phil, with whom she's sleeping in hopes of being cast in the lead in the play he's going to put on. Though another actress and singer, Charlotte Warren (who Delysia calls "the rabbit") is also up for the part, and may also try to seduce Phil. Meanwhile, there's a pianist named Michael (Lee Pace), who accompanies Delysia's singing at the club, and who wants to marry her.
Anyway, Miss Pettigrew suddenly finds herself caught up in a scandalous world that obviously goes beyond any of her previous employers, in terms of inappropriate behavior. And yet, she's desperate; she has no money at all, only one set of (rather drab) clothes, and no home. On top of that, there's a running gag about how she can't manage to get anything to eat; every time she comes close, something happens to ruin her chance. Aside from her desperation, there's something about Delysia that's just... rather intoxicating. She's a hopeless wreck in many ways, and yet she's very nice, and beautiful, and fun, and just... delightful. And then, everything happened so fast, Miss Pettigrew had no time really to think about anything she said or did. She just kept rolling with all the abrupt and shocking twists and turns that were suddenly thrown her way, and did whatever she could to help Delysia out of all the impossible situations she'd gotten herself into. Which, of course, immediately and deeply endeared Miss Pettigrew to her, as well.
Soon, Delysia takes her out and gets her a new dress. And also introduces her to a friend named Edythe (Shirley Henderson), who was running a fashion show, I guess. She also has a relationship with a lingerie designer named Joe, to whom she was engaged until some recent thing split them up. There's a plot twist I don't want to reveal the specifics of, but it involved Miss Pettigrew and Edythe having seen each other recently, before Pettigrew started working for Delysia. The two of them therefore each knew something about the other that they wouldn't want getting out. And Edythe wants to use that knowledge to get Pettigrew to help repair her relationship with Joe. Meanwhile, Pettigrew tries to convince Delysia that Michael is the man she should really be with.
I don't want to say any more about the plot, or how any of it turns out. But the whole thing definitely has a very 1930s feel, and it has some good music, and it's got good humor and drama, and good acting all around. It really is quite funny, as well as having some very appealing romantic moments for both Delysia and Pettigrew (though I won't say who the latter's potential romance is with, but it's pretty obvious from the first time they see each other... and yet it's nicely understated and sensible, as well as sweet). I also quite liked the unlikely friendship that quickly developed between Delysia and Pettigrew. And I guess I don't know what else to say. Except that it's pretty incredible that the whole story took place over a single day.