' Cinema Romantico: Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day

I came this to 2008 Bharat Nalluri film, based on the novel by Winifred Watson, to quench my sudden thirst for Amy Adams in the wake of "Sunshine Cleaning" when I suddenly found myself simultaneously washing out the god-awful aftertaste of "Leatherheads". The setting: London in the late 30's. Oh, to have been alive in the late 30's! Cocktail parties and swing music and....World War II. Right. Never mind.


Frances McDormand is Miss Pettigrew herself, a harumph of a woman who has just been let go by her employment agency and, thus, steals the assignment right off her ex-employer's desk to be the "social secretary" for wannabe starlet Delysia Lafosse (Adams). When Miss Pettigrew first shows up at the expansive, cinematic loft where Delysia is staying, which is owned by Nick, who runs a nightclub where Delysia sings, she finds Delysia currently sleeping with Phil, who is a producing a West End play in which Delysia yearns to get the lead, except that Nick is on his way back home and so Delysia needs a little assistance in a grand juggling act to ensure Nick doesn't see her with Phil and vice versa and this doesn't even mention the fact Michael, who plays piano at the club with Delysia and really, truly loves her, is also on his way to the loft with some mighty important news and, though it's against her nature, Miss Pettigrew finds herself a willing participant in this massive charade.

What a virtuoso sequence to (essentially) open the film! Twenty minutes, at least, in this one setting, people going into rooms, out of rooms, up the stairs, and down the stairs, and up the elevator, and down the elevator, and out onto balconies, and all of it exciting and fresh, even though you've seen this sort of thing before, and by the time it ends the movie has accomplished the most tricky part and made this odd couple of Delysia and Miss Pettigrew two real pals who will now hit the town to attend a fashion show and get Miss Pettigrew a bit of a makeover and then return to the apartment for an important party and then wind up at a nightclub where an air raid siren will not beckon the start of WWII but the burgeoning of true love (in more ways than one).

McDormand is great as Miss Pettigrew. She makes her inevitable arc convincing without overdoing it. She still maintains the same persona at the end as she had at the beginning and it's more like Delysia has helped her draw out the other characteristics she had but had never shown. Her love interest comes in the form of a Joe (Ciaran Hinds), a lingerie designer who, as it's said, can always see a woman for who she really is. And, pardon me for saying so, but Ciaran Hinds is one keen dude. Maybe this guy should be playing Bond? I mean, it would be a totally different Bond, older, wiser, less shooting people with laser pens while jumping out of airplanes and more witty banter at cocktail hour.

And, of course, there is Amy Adams. ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION, RENEE ZELLWEGER?! This is different era acting! She is decidedly of the period but never ever a characature. Her line readings are all tart and sass but consistently sweetened with sugar. (Reader: Did he really just write that sentence? Me: Yes, I did!) She is delightful and loving and caring but cunning and maniuplative, though in a very delightful, loving, caring way. Her constant smiles when she thinks she might be caught in a lie feign innocence that is at once fake and real. She has dreamlike aspirations for herself and is hiding a secret (duh) but I think most of us do that because most of us have dreamlike aspirations for ourselves. All this, and she sings too! And take special note of how the movie has enough intelligence so that she makes her ultimate decision on her own an instant before it would have been made for her.

I dig Amy Adams - like, a lot. I dug Amy Adams in this movie. I dug everyone else in this movie. I dug this movie. (What's that sound? Why, I think it's your netflix queue calling out for you to add this movie to it.) It's the cat's meow.

1 comment:

Rory Larry said...

Dammit! Yet another film I really wanted to see but let someone talk me out of it.