This bright, if fleeting comedy features the talented actresses Frances McDormand (best known as the pregnant sheriff in Fargo) and Amy Adams.
Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day centers on Guinevere Pettigrew (McDormand, whose husband Joel Coen shared in the recent accolades for No Country For Old Men) who learns that she must "seize the day". In late 30s London, England when the economy was in a recession, the middle-aged governess again lost her position, even without severence pay.
The script by Simon Beaufoy and David Magee transpires over a 24 hour period as Miss Pettigrew swipes an employment agency reference. Soon, she'll become a "social secretary", outside of her element into the busy life of frivolous American singer/actress Delysia Lafosse (Adams, so wonderful in the live action/animated Enchanted).
The screenplay, from Winifred Watson's controversial 1938 novel, catches into a Cinderella element about the prim and meek having a chance to succeed in the world.
McDormand has fun with the liberated nature of the part, to enjoy being in the upper social strata, but also settling down Delysia in her professional and personal life.
The rapport between her salty fervor and Adams's lively impetuousness is fine, especially in each of the characters's mutual yearning or opportunity to provide a new stability never dreamed.
The direction by Indian-born Bharat Nalluri suggests a feel for Billy Wilder in his heydey as Guinevere and Delysia propel one another, notably in the area of romance.
Perhaps the men are much less empowered by the script and filmmaking. Newcomer Tom Payne is the impressionable young impresario, Mark Strong (Stardust) is the no-nonsense nightclub owner Nick, and Lee Pace also offers backup as studious piano-playing Michael. The versatile Ciaran Hinds (There Will Be Blood) fills the part of Joe, a lauded production designer whose presence attracts Miss Pettigrew.
Shirley Henderson adds a flash of chic pompousness to fashion executive Edythe who happens to be engaged to Joe, and is on to this heady woman who really is out of familiar surroundings.
Miss Pettigrew maintains the kind of tone ideal for romantics in the vein of Being Julia with its style and setting, more screwball than dramatic or portentous. Thematically, a similarity of reawakening resonates as McDormand and Adams sparkle, if not as poignantly as Annette Bening did on the stage. But, this flouting, liberated theatrical film definitely lives for life and love in a day.