Movie review: Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day

Set in the late 1930s, Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day is pretty to look at but tries a little too hard.

Frances McDormand, left, and Amy Adams are shown in a scene from, Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day.
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Director: Bharat Nalluri Starring: Frances McDormand, Amy Adams, Ciaran Hinds, Shirley Henderson, Lee Pace London, late 1930s: Guinevere Pettigrew (McDormand) is an old fashioned, rather dowdy governess. Delysia Lafosse (Adams) is her opposite in almost everything: a giddy, sensual American showgirl juggling a trio of men from the luxury penthouse suite one of them is paying for. Circumstances bring the two women together, and Miss Pettigrew is soon organising Delysia's unduly complicated life, whether she likes it or not. With its relentlessly jaunty big band jazz score, art deco furnishings and air of determined frivolity, Miss Pettigrew feels like a throwback to a Noel Coward play from the Thirties, minus about two thirds of the wit (in fact it's based on a 1938 novel by Winifred Watson). At first Adams (Enchanted) seems to be channelling squeaky, breathless Betty Boop, and trying much too hard - but in her defence she is playing a bad actress; Delysia can't quite carry her affectations. The usually excellent McDormand (Fargo) doesn't make sense of the title character's contradictions - she's at once supremely practical and quite unworldly - but the movie finds its feet as it goes on and the tone grows more sombre. This is one of those classy British comedies that is aimed for export - just don't mistake it for the real thing.