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Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day: movie review

Submitted by on August 13, 2008 – 6:20 pmNo Comment

So Frances McDormand (known for her quite excellent roles in Almost Famous and Fargo) has decided that she can do a British accent in what your average layman would call a “period drama” and anyone else would name “a pretentiously English flick”. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is a quite predictable piece with Miss Pettigrew conning her way into a social secretary for a woman with a rather (Delysia Lafosse). Amy Adams (of Enchanted fame) plays Lafosse, a dizzy woman who is keeping three men on the go at the same time. In truth, you watch the movie thinking that the role should have been played by Nicole Kidman (for Adams resembles Kidman somewhat). However, as the film progresses you realise that the casting is spot on. McDormand plays a doe-in-a-headlights role well; looking very much like British comedienne Catherine Tate. Adams plays ditzy too well, Lee Pace plays the only decent man under 35 as expected and plays the role she was born to: Sweet face with a sharp tongue.

The soundtrack bounces along like you are sitting in a 30’s nightclub. That is the point as watch what is to become a friendly jaunt into the briefest of rags to riches stories. Unfortunately, despite the comic feel of the story, very little is evident. Men claim true love after knowing a woman for five minutes, the is imminent and yet only two people (who remember the first one) its coming. The difficulties lie in the fact that you are not let into this world for long enough. The movie is approx 90 minutes long and in those fun-filled minutes, very little is peeled off the surface. This glimpse into Miss Pettigrew’s life just doesn’t seem enough. The character just seems dragged along for a fun-filled ride and only subtley do we get any real emotions come through. The movie plays very much like one of it’s stars: It’s ditzy.

Ultimately, this is a shame because so much more could be made of this. Laughter and in a movie works as long as it is contrasted with pain, fear, loss or sorrow. The greatest shame of this is that it could have been absolutely perfect if it had been bold enough to get beneath the surface and continue for a further hour. The greatest problem with this theory though is the title. By calling it: “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day”, you are implying two things:

  1. The movie covers a period in Miss Pettigrew’s life that only consists of a day (obviously)
  2. That Miss Pettigrew has never “lived” before.

The title puts restraints on the story as not much can be said of character development (of the aforementioned Pettigrew) and that whatever happens in the movie, it has to conceivably happen in 24 hours. As sad as it seems, the story dances along nicely and you hope to get somewhere, but ultimately the promise of the title is fulfilled and you feel that it deserved more detail. I for one am saddened that Miss Pettigrew has only lived in film for only one day. I would have wished to have seen her for more than that.

My Rating: 3.6 out of 10 (This is a movie that you will watch over and over again, for its frolicking through the late 1930’s. Each time you watch it (like the Titanic) you’ll hope that the inevitable does not come this time round. Sadly though. It does).

Your Rating: 3.2 out of 10

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