Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
If you are
willing to take the great challenge of trying to recreate the atmosphere of
the classic screwball comedies of the 1930s, you are courting danger. The
movie could be hopelessly quaint in the new millennium. It might be a
museum piece which bears little resemblance or relevance to the modern day.
Pettigrew Lives for a Day, based on a once-beloved but now somewhat forgotten
1938 novel of the same name by Winifred Watson, skirts that danger most
convincingly. The beginning scenes may be a hair too broad (though
they feel comfortable with their source material), but then all the pieces
snap into place and Miss Pettigrew becomes a terrific film which can
be appreciated on several different levels.
because it hews so closely to era of the source material (the script itself
is not so much faithful to the words as it is the spirit of the novel), it
becomes okay to not necessarily try to shoehorn these characters into modern
Pettigrew is definitively a story of its time. When was the last
film you saw in which both female leads ended up choosing love over
their career -- essentially allowing men to care for them rather than
capturing their dreams of doing it themselves?
And yet, at
the same time, the heroines are both strong and driven women. There is
also a sexual openness to the script which would have been rather shocking
in the days of Myrna Loy or Carol Lombard (though it is rather chaste by
McDormand (Fargo) is perfect as a repressed British nanny -- a
no-nonsense minister's daughter who has been fired from every position she
has ever taken because she is unable to hold her tongue about the parent's
flaws. With no opportunities at work and no place to live, she bluffs
her way into a position that she is completely unqualified for -- the
"social secretary" for a bubble-headed American starlet.
character is more broadly drawn and thus harder to reign in, and yet Adams
once again shows a sure-handed talent in playing light, innocent comic
characters. She is Delysia, a star-wannabe who will romance anyone
needed to get her career going. She is sweet and sexy and surprisingly
sensitive -- but is not always smart enough to do what is best for herself.
Delysia is too flighty to say no to any of the guys in her life, Miss
Pettigrew acts as a good barrier for her. However, an interesting
thing happens -- not only does the shallow party girl learn from knowing the
staid minister's daughter, but Miss Pettigrew learns from Delysia as well.
also adds a darker level to the source material -- the specter of the
lingering war around the corner. The references to the coming of World
War II (which of course were not there in the book, simply because the War
hadn't come yet) are usually subtly handled, though they just occasionally
feel shoehorned in. Miss Pettigrew also turns out to have a tragic
background revolving around war, which adds depth and nuance to the
Miss Pettigrew works at its best as a look at not-so-modern love and
relationships. It is a visually stunning film, well-acted,
fast-talking and sweetly romantic. You don't see movies like this
often anymore, and that's a shame.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: February 12, 2008.