Sunday, April 13, 2008

It Pettigrews on you

Yes, I know an Amy Adams film review that is over a month late, what kind of “obsessed” fan am I (the guys over at are probably laughing at me)? But as I’ve said before, real life has had to take precedence over the glorious world of film. Now enough apologizing and on with the review.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is a breezy, wisp of a film, enjoyable and quickly forgotten. The film was by no means required to become a new classic but with the talent on hand it’s a disappointment that it hasn’t become more. Taking place in London on the eve of World War II, the film features Frances McDormand as the titular unlucky governess, Guinevere Pettigrew, who becomes the social secretary of fussy aspiring performer and ingénue the deliciously named Delysia Lafosse played by Amy Adams (HALLELUJAH...where did THAT come from?). By the time Guinevere is officially hired by Delysia she’s already helped Delysia dispatch one young lover (who Delysia is using to get a lead role on the West End) and dodge another (who Delysia is using for his lodgings). Delysia’s true love is the impoverished pianist Michael (Pushing Daisies pie-maker Lee Pace) but the two naturally can’t come together at the beginning because, well, then there would be no movie. Delysia and Guinevere nicely compliment each other. Delysia gives Guinevere (who at the start is kind of the hot-tranny mess version of Mary Poppins) beauty and impetuousness and Guinevere gives her class and maturity. The two form a close bond and over the course of the day make-overs occur, songs are sung, face abounds and both ladies find true love (for Guinevere it comes in the form of an unusually charming Ciaran Hinds playing an undergarment manufacturer).
Director Bharat Nalluri is an accomplished British TV director and he certainly makes the film look good, Adams is never shot to look anything less than breathlessly gorgeous and especially so in one breathless scene as she barges down a hallway quick changing into perfection as she goes. However he encounters the same pacing problems that Clooney’s Leatherheads has, namely that the film has an uneven tone and never gets revved up properly with genuine screwball comedy pacing. With all the beauty and pageantry on display it’s a case of too much “ball” and not nearly enough “screw.” Adams certainly give the proceedings a buoyant energy as her Delysia is a cross between Marilyn Monroe’s Sugar Kane and Katherine Hepburn’s flustering society ditz in Bringing Up Baby. Adams rubs off on everyone but the goings are rough at the start, the film doesn’t have any oomph but by the time Delysia is showing off black lingerie and a jazz version of Anything Goes plays on the soundtrack I had a smile going from ear to ear. The problem is that the film offers nothing new to the genre. There are flashes where the film tries to contrast the frivolity of the characters by having McDormand and Hinds discussing the brutality and destruction wrecked by the first War. However these moments, while well acted, seem out of pace in the otherwise featherweight proceedings. Perhaps if the film had decided to use the contrast to deconstruct screwball farce then it would provide the film with a bit more ballast. As it stands though the film is a brief, forgettable delight, a perfect date movie for an evening with the bigger plans on the agenda.

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