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Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day


Stars: Frances McDormand, Amy Adams, Lee Pace, Ciaran Hinds, Shirley Henderson, Mark Strong, Christina Cole

Director: Bharat Nalluri

Here's a film you want to like a lot more than proves possible. Fabulously well set in London just before World War Two, it stars the Oscar-winning American actress McDormand (English accent perfect apart from a few 'a's) as a failed governess (Jane and Michael Banks would have made mincemeat of her) in her mid forties who, rejected even by her own employment agency, steals a business card there - of an actress needing a social secretary.

Presenting herself for the job (and swiftly informing the agency that their client is dead!), Miss Pettigrew soon finds herself in a whirlwind of social activity. The whirlwind's name is giddy American Delycia Lafosse (Adams), who has three men on the go at once and is (not coincidentally) angling for the lead in a new West End musical.

When Miss P proves adept at getting her new employer out of romantic scrapes, she finds herself whisked off to a fashion show, where the would-be darling of London haute couture, Edythe Dubarry (Henderson), unfortunately recognises the dowdy Pettigrew as the same piteous creature she had seen queueing the previous night at a soup kitchen.

But, as Miss Pettigrew saw Edythe at the same time with a man who wasn't her beau (Hinds), the 'social secretary' is safe...until she sorts everybody's lives out.

The film looks fantastic, but seems completely artificial (and boring at times), even given the feelgood intentions it wears on its elegant sleeve. But, if their shenanigans do run like a stage play, McDormand and Adams could hardly be bettered - and Pace (from TV's Pushing Daisies) is pleasingly personable as the piano player the flighty Delysia really loves.

David Quinlan

UK/USA 2008. UK Distributor: Momentum. Colour by deluxe.
92 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 09 Aug 2008