“Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day” – Susan Granger reviews

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The 1930s and ‘40s were the heyday of Hollywood’s screwball romantic comedies and now, for a brief, fleeting moment, that charming, irresistible nonsense has returned.

In 1939 in London, middle-aged Miss Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) is summarily fired from yet another governess position, a profession for which she is obviously not well suited. Downtrodden and desperate, she swipes an employment agency reference and presents herself as a ‘social secretary’ to an American actress/cabaret singer, Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams), whose hectic, chaotic life is in need of the kind of order and common sense that Miss Pettigrew dispenses with gallant aplomb. And, while untangling Delysia’s frivolous web of deceit and deception, Miss Pettigrew seizes the exhilarating opportunity to forge a future for herself that she never dreamed possible.

The screenplay by Simon Beaufoy and David Magee – evolving over a 24-hour period – was based on Winifred Watson’s scandalous novel which – back in 1938 – glorified sexually liberated women flouting convention and class distinction. Recently rediscovered by Persephone Books, London’s Daily Mail cited the book’s Cinderella-like message “that everyone, no matter how poor or prim or neglected, has a second chance to blossom in the world.”

Frances McDormand (“Fargo”) merges her down-to-earth intensity with Amy Adams’ (“Enchanted”) recklessness impatience, as they share a mutual, unconquerable hopefulness. Reduced to stereotypes by director Bharat Nalluri (“Tsunami: The Aftermath”), the men (Lee Pace, Ciaran Hinds, Tom Payne, Mark Strong) fare less well, as their giddy fun becomes very deliberate very quickly, their hijinks emerging as complacent, rather than adventurous or daring. Nevertheless, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” is a stylish, sparkly 7. Amid the dark, dreary dirges on the screen, it’s wonderfulness on a rampage.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.