Saturday, August 23, 2008

Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day: Grade A

Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day (2008)
Amy Adams, Francis McDormand, Shirley Henderson. Director Bharat Nalluri.

Francis McDormand shines as Miss Pettigrew, an impoverished temp maid-nanny in 1939 London. After getting fired for being eccentric, she connives her way into the home of a fabulously wealthy starlet (Adams), and through a series of misunderstandings and events, manages to make friends with her employer. It is slightly unbelievable that an unemployed maid would have an upper class British accent and character but other than that, McDormand does an excellent job with the fish out of water setup. Her acting is quick, understated, and sophisticated; just perfect. This is her movie. Adams also does a fine job, but her character is supposed to be a ditzy self-centered airhead so she doesn’t have much range to work with. Nevertheless, she nails that characterization.

The starlet has “boyfriend problems” and there are bountiful shopping, parties, and night clubs. The sets are so rich, textured, and sensuous, you can almost touch red velvet and feel cool, polished brass. The art deco set design is fantastic. This movie really should be viewed on a big screen. Jazz and swing period music is wonderful but not intrusive, and the bandstand shots are exciting and creative. Costumes are to die for. You could watch this movie with out any dialog and enjoy the sets and costumes 100%. But the dialog is great. It is all silly stuff, petty jealousies and social conspiracies, but well written, funny, and well delivered in a whirlwind, off the cuff style of the screwball comedies of the ‘30’s and 40’s. Directing is flawless. If you are in the mood for a light romantic comedy that is also an excellent period piece, this movie is about as close to perfection as you could get.

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