"Miss Pettigrew" A Fairy Tale For Adults

Frances McDormand, left, and Amy Adams in Focus Features' "Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day." Focus Features/Kerry Brown

This story was written by TheShowBuzz.com's Rick Borutta

It's "A fairy tale for adults," says director Bharat Nalluri of "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day," a new comedy featuring Oscar winner Frances McDormand and Oscar nominee Amy Adams.

The title character is a nanny who, out of desperate and farcical circumstances, ends up as the social secretary to an American actress and is foisted into her dizzying and glamorous world. By being herself, Miss Pettigrew makes everyone fall in love with her, and helps those around her become more themselves as well. This film by Focus Features is a farce in the truest sense from the delicate act of balancing lovers' entrances and exits, adoption of persona for comic effect and even setting all of the action inside the space of one day.

"Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day" is based on the 1938 novel of the same name by author Winifred Watson. She wrote six novels in total and "was a bit ahead of her time," says producer Stephen Garrett on the film's official website, "Her books were about women changing their lives, flouting convention, and addressing class tensions and extramarital sex."

Photos: Frances McDormand
The film unfolds in the Mary Poppins style as Guinevere Pettigrew, (McDormand) a homeless, tragic but honest figure shows up at the door of cabaret singer Delysia LaFosse (Amy Adams) pretending to be sent by an employment agency as a social secretary.

Photos: Amy Adams
Through their adventures in London's social world everyone falls in love with Pettigrew for her honest opinions of them, though her secret is kept unrevealed until near the end of the story. LaFosse gives up her own pretenses at Pettigrew's urging to follow her heart while Pettigrew herself finally receives the reward for her own good nature and selflessness.

"What I loved about [her character] Delysia is that it was an opportunity to almost make a comment on society today in an old-fashioned fun way," Amy Adams tells CBS News' Karina Mahtani-Mitchell, "She's just such an actress in her life you know, I don't know necessarily if she is a good actress in her work but she's a wonderful actress in her life."

Golden Globe Award nominee Lee Pace (star of the hit television series "Pushing Daisies") plays Michael, Delysia's accompanist at the cabaret who, though penniless, holds the key to her heart. "Well I like that he's a good guy, that's important to me," says Pace, "…fighting to give her a good life and he knows that he's good for her and he sees her faults and he sees what's great about her and he's going to fight for her."

"Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day" is set in late 1930s London, both in the destitute world from where Miss Pettigrew exits, to the exquisite art deco settings in the style of famed designers like Dorothy Draper and William Haines. The film seems to employ a circular room and 360-degree camera work during pivotal scenes to emphasize moments in a "coming full circle" plot that could work well on the stage. Adding to the style of the film are meticulously selected pop tunes from the period by Cole Porter, "Yip" Harburg, Leo Robin and The Ink Spots. The film opens in limited release on March 7, 2008.

By Rick Borutta
  • CBSNews

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