Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day – 2 Buckets
If there’s one thing that Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day does right, that thing is allowing Amy Adams to once again prove to audiences that she’s a star. Despite the general blandness of the film as a whole, Adams stands out above the rest, performing with such an involving amount of vigor that her character proves impossible not to like. During several passages of the movie, her sparkling work made me forget about how utterly uninvolved I was in the story and the other characters.
On the other hand, what good is Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day? Sure, Adams gets her chance to shine, but she could’ve done the same thing in a better movie. We saw her do precisely this inJunebug and Enchanted and Charlie Wilson’s War. Hell, I could even make a case for her work inTalladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, despite the fact that it was overshadowed by the bombastic efforts of Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, and Sacha Baron Cohen.
Not to mention, Adams doesn’t even have the lead role in the film. The title Miss Pettigrew is played by a snooze-inducing Frances McDormand, who hasn’t been more uninteresting in her entire career. Pettigrew lives in England and works as a nanny in the late 1930s, just before the outbreak of World War II. As the British employment-rate declines as wartime tensions reach their crescendo and Pettigrew is fired by a family for being difficult to get along with, she finds herself rejected by the nanny agency that she normally seeks jobs through. This leaves her impoverished and on the streets.
Of course, Miss Pettigrew is too inventive (though, I assure you, in the most conventional of ways) a protagonist to stay unemployed for long. Before being thrown out of the agency, she steals the address of a potential client, Delycia LaFosse (Adams) and dashes to the woman’s home to pretend that she was the lady recommended for the job. When Miss Pettigrew knocks on the residence’s door, she is instantly welcomed by Delycia, an amateur actress who needs Miss Pettigrew to nanny her many boyfriends, not her children. There are three men in Delycia’s life: Nick (Mark Strong), the owner of the home that she lives in; Phil (Tom Payne), a West End producer she’s dating in the hopes of scoring the lead role in his play; and Michael (Lee Pace), a young and poor musician who her heart truly belongs to. Miss Pettigrew finds herself unwilling to play Delycia’s bizarre game, but Delycia won’t take no for an answer. A wild and erratic day designed to please middle-aged-woman viewers follows.
Despite its straightforward and uninspired premise, I suppose Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Daycould have worked had it been well played and executed on all counts. It doesn’t even come close to doing this, however; the aforementioned Adams is the only one to truly break out of its boring mold. The dialogue is blasé and unimpressive, McDormand carries absolutely no punch as the protagonist, and the love-triangle that emerges in the plot feels cliché and predictable. The movie may go down easy enough—it runs for a petite ninety minutes—but it certainly isn’t impressive or memorable. Even if I was never pained by Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, I think I would’ve preferred it to be a painful movie that challenged my idea of bad art rather than the thoughtlessly mediocre effort that it is instead.
* * *
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008; UK, USA). Produced by Nellie Bellflower, Jane Frazer, Stephen Garrett, Maggi Townley, and Paul Webster. Directed by Bharat Nalluri. Written for the screen by David Magee and Simon Beaufoy, based on the novel by Winifred Watson. Starring Frances McDormand, Amy Adams, Lee Pace, Ciarán Hinds, David Alexander, Clare Clifford, Christina Cole, Stephanie Cole, and Shirley Henderson. Distributed by Focus Features. Rated PG-13, with a running time of 92 minutes.