Andy Bockelman: 'Miss Pettigrew' sweet natured, smart

— For a film that hearkens back to the good old-fashioned screwball antics of the Golden Age of Cinema, be sure to check out "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day."

Trod-upon governess Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) is getting lost among the fray of 1939 London.

She cannot keep a single job, and her employment agency refuses to give her any more recommendations. When an opportunity for a new position presents itself, she takes it, willing to commit herself to whatever it may take to keep the post.

When she inquires about it and meets American Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams), she learns that the job is not as a nanny, but a social secretary. Delysia is a lounge singer and actress who needs help keeping the men in her circle straight; Nick (Mark Strong) is her boss and benefactor, Phil (Tom Payne) is a theatre producer's son who is entranced by her, and Michael (Lee Pace) is the penniless pianist who truly loves her.

Although she does not approve of all the man juggling, Miss Pettigrew steps up to the task of sorting out the messiness of Delysia's life, surprising herself with her own boldness.

In return, Delysia takes it upon herself to make her new employee a little more presentable, introducing Miss Pettigrew to the exciting world of high society and en vogue fashion.

McDormand is spectacular as a mousy Mary Poppins turned woman about town. Both sweet and maddening is Adams as Delysia, who admires the confidence exuded by her new assistant, unaware that all the bravado is completely new to her.

The men involved in her complicated arrangement are good as well, from Strong as obstinate Nick to Payne as empty-headed Phil. Pace is a cut above the others as lovelorn Michael, whom Miss Pettigrew instantly recognizes to be the right one for Delysia.

Likewise, Ciaran Hinds is striking as lingerie designer Joe Blumfield, the man who she falls for herself, drawing the ire of his on-again off-again fiance Edythe Dubarry, well played by flint-voiced Shirley Henderson.

The recreation of Britain in the days leading up to World War II is augmented by the snappy patter of the dialogue and the reasonable zaniness of the characters involved in the movie. The major draw is in its two leading ladies and their contrasting personalities, which ultimately dissolve to reveal that the nominal Miss Pettigrew and her employer actually have quite a bit in common.

As they both experience love, loss and the terror of an impending military skirmish all in the course of a single day, we come to love the both of them, flaws and all.

Although the story is possibly a bit too frantic to fully absorb, the film's allure is very palpable.

Sweet-natured and smart, "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day" is the kind of movie that will stay with you for well over a day, most likely even longer.

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