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Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (Review)

A visually appealing effort

by Ruby Yang

In an era just barely recovering from the Great Depression, and on the cusp of entering World War II, the end of the 1930s was a time of uncertainty in the world. That, however, did not stop people from living lavishly. Thus, in a time where many were poor or unemployed, there were also the rich who threw party after party. They are two entirely different worlds. As a result, you can imagine the culture shock one would experience when witnessing first-hand how the other half of the population lives. In Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day, Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) is an incompetent governess who has just been fired yet again from her latest job. Deemed virtually unhireable and turned away from the employment agency, Miss Pettigrew does the only thing she can do; steal the job she overheard being requested.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
Directed by Bharat Nalluri
Cast Frances McDormand, Amy Adams, Ciarán Hinds
Release Date 7 March 2008
Ruby's Grade: A-

With little knowledge about the job other than the address, Miss Pettigrew shows up on the doorstep of aspiring starlet Delysia LaFosse (Amy Adams) and soon begins her one-day stint moonlighting as a social secretary. However, to her surprise, her duties mostly revolve around managing Delysia’s three lovers. From the director’s son, to the wealthy but controlling nightclub owner, and finally, the handsome piano player, Miss Pettigrew is essentially tasked with figuring out the complicated mess that is Delysia’s love life. With only a glimpse into a single day of Guinevere Pettigrew and Deylsia Lafosse, there is only a limited amount of time for character development.

And so, as you’d expect, everything feels a bit rushed. Are we really to expect that in one day, Miss Pettigrew manages to completely change both her and Delysia’s life?  However, strangely enough, this rushed character development is also the one that makes sense—especially given the absurdity that is Delysia’s life. At the same time, the rushed storyline also helps makes the film an enjoyable throwback to the glamorous golden age of Hollywood where movies featured simple, straightforward plot lines. And with the movie’s gorgeous art deco sets plus beautiful costumes (those two alone are worth watching the movie for!) it’s almost as if you are watching a movie from the 1930s. However to some, this simple and almost no story plotline might come off as boring for some viewers. After all, you are basically spending over an hour watching a movie in which little happens besides the rotation of Delysia’s lovers.

If you’re new to this type of movie then you’ll probably find yourself frustrated and wondering when the movie is going to get to the point. Instead, the plot is exactly what it is. There’s no real point besides it’s being a light-hearted comedy that’s meant to entertain its viewers. In other words, it’s not a movie with some profound and illuminating message. Rather, it is a movie made simply for entertainment value. While meaningful movies are great, sometimes it’s just nice to watch some nice fluff. And Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day does exactly that.

Usually simple storylines end up trying too hard to be different when in reality it’s just a rehash of a movie already made. But when it comes to Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day, something about the plot seems natural—it’s a delightful and refreshing light-hearted comedy that doesn’t try to be like any other movie. Instead it is a fun and unique film that definitely holds its own in comparison to other period films. So whether you love the era,fashion or just enjoy simple comedies, you must watch Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day—just as Miss Pettigrew brings happiness to Delyssia’s life, she too will bring a little brightness to your day.

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