The 1930s and 40s were the heyday of Hollywoods 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 Delysias 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 Watsons scandalous novel which back in 1938 glorified sexually liberated women flouting convention and class distinction. Recently rediscovered by Persephone Books, Londons Daily Mail cited the books 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, its wonderfulness on a rampage.