Sunday, October 12, 2008

Miss Pettigrew Enchants for an Hour and a Half

Two nights ago, I finally caught up with "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day," that lovely romantic comedy from the spring that stars the great Amy Adams and the even greater Frances McDormand. Playing like a film that's been plucked right out of the 30s, it's 92 minutes of nostalgic, irresistable charm.

Adams is perfect for the film's theatrical tone and her fiery locks look right at home in Depression-era bonnets and curls. Even better is McDormand, who adds yet another note-perfect performance and fits-like-a-glove role to her resume. Strong support comes from male characters played by Lee Pace ("The Fall") and Ciaran Hinds (um, everything?) but this film belongs to its two leading ladies.

For a period piece (it's set in 1939 London), the tale of Miss Pettigrew (McDormand), an unemployed nanny who lives on the streets until she gets herself a gig posing as the social secretary of aspiring actress Delysia (Adams), is told on a rather small scale. There are only about five locations in this film and most of it takes place in one luxurious flat. For me, this added to the intimacy of the story. And after all, the whole thing takes place in just...a day.

Nearly as entertaining as the film are the special features on the DVD which include a documentary about "Miss Pettigrew"'s long journey to the screen. Winifred Watson, who wrote the novel on which the film is based in the very year it takes place, sold the movie rights to Universal twice before her death in the 50s. Universal, which owns Focus Features, ultimately released the film nearly 70 years after the publication of Watson's book. I'm not sure if it delivers on what that much production time can afford but it's a touching and pretty film that's definitely worth a rental if not a purchase.

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