Unless one is aware of the history surrounding the book, the premise of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day may seem a bit dry and boring. The trailers for the film didn’t really paint it as fitting too easily into any specific genre and seemed to be more intent on showing off its actors than what the story itself was about. As flat as it made the film seem, it was probably the wisest thing to do, as trying to condense what this film does in an hour and a half into a two minute trailer would have been nearly impossible. While not a box office success by any means (its widest release was under six hundred theaters, so it couldn’t have been), the film attracted a modest amount of critical acclaim and will no doubt find a warm home waiting for it on the home video market.
After being fired from her latest job for angering her client, Miss Pettigrew finds herself once again homeless and wandering the streets. Attempting to take a job that her employment officer insists she isn’t right (or qualified) for, Miss Pettigrew shows up at the doorstep of one Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams), who immediately hires her as a social secretary. Taken on a whirlwind tour of her Lafosse’s life, Miss Pettigrew becomes close friends with those around her in short time…literally. Revolving all around the same day, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day shows just how lively ones day can be if the right circumstances should come about.
If you’re still reading, then you didn’t yawn and yell “PASS” as you loaded the next review, then you must have a fleeting interest in either what exactly this movie is or are at least interested in the actors that inhabit it. Truth be told, my desire for this film was only due to Amy Adams (whose work I admire) and Lee Pace (who I’ve come to know on the ABC show Pushing Daises), so I fell in the latter of that description. Even having seen the film it’s a bit hard to describe; it’s a very light and airy story that is just…well, fun. The characters are fun, its fun to listen to and most importantly it’s fun to watch. I had a smile on my face for the entire movie, simply because it was just so incredibly charming throughout. I rarely gush about a romantic comedy, as they aren’t my thing, but I really and truly enjoyed this one.
I think what helps make this film so enjoyable to watch is how simple it is. The quote on the cover, “A delightful champagne cocktail of a comedy!”, may not make a whole lot of sense to you before watching it, but afterwards you can see exactly what the reviewer (Leah Rozen) was talking about. I still don’t even know what “champagne cocktail” really refers to in correlation with this film, but the phrase fits what this movie is about perfectly. Usually quotes are so overblown on these covers, but Rozen’s comment is dead on when it comes to describing this film.
An element of the film that may seem jarring at first is just how fast it moves. I’m not just talking about the cuts of the camera or anything, but the actual pace of the film. If this were slowed down by just one bit, it would’ve easily bled over into the two hour mark. The fast paced dialogue and quick wit exchange is one of the most satisfying elements of the film. It doesn’t give you time to relax or think, it’s like a film strung up on caffeine that flies on through until the very end. It has a few breather moments, courtesy of Miss Pettigrew trying to re-assemble herself, so there are respites for those that require them. On the whole, however, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is just a lively and incredibly entertaining film.
The pre-World War II time period presented here is also a delight, as it takes us back to a “simpler” time of the world that, through recent portrayals, we realize wasn’t quite as innocent as it seemed. Our secondary lead, Delysia, is one that would be referred to, in incredibly simple terms, a “slut.” Her current occupancy of three boyfriends makes for a hilarious film, but it’s also the time period its set in that makes it so delightful to watch. Adams portrays the character with a combination of incredible smarts with just a dash of inexperience thrown in, to make the whole eventful day that she spends with Miss Pettigrew all that much more whimsical.
Adams character isn’t the only one with ailing relationship problems in the film, however. Pettigrew is roped into helping one of Delysia’s “friends”, whose fiancé Pettigrew eventually falls for herself. In a way the film represents an “old world” couple (Pettigrew and Joe Blumfeld [Ciarán Hinds]) and a “new world” couple (Delysia and Michael Pardue [Lee Pace]). Like the TV series Mad Men, you’ll likely be surprised by how things were handled “back in the day” (although Pettigrew takes about twenty to thirty years prior to Mad Men, but the feeling of “Wow, I didn’t know it was like that” remains the same), but the surprise is part of what makes the film so much fun to watch.
I’ve probably gushed over this film enough. I don’t really know what it is about it; it’s just incredibly fun to watch this film. Having ooed and awed over it for a while now though, I don’t know if I’d ever watch it again. Perhaps once more just to see what I missed, but once you know the ending to the film a lot of the excitement wears off. Still, first time viewers will no doubt be as won over by this film as I was. And guys—don’t worry if your significant other ropes you into seeing it, as, if you’re anything like me (and I loved Planet Terror, so that should give you an idea of my movie tastes), you’ll find this one enjoyable as well. Highly Recommended.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day arrives on DVD from Universal Home Entertainment via way of their Focus Features banner. The disc itself is a double sided (widescreen on one, full screen on the other) entry without any inserts of any kind inside the standard single disc amaray case. Main menu is animated with music, while subsequent menus are static and without audio. Video for the film is a solid 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that bursts with detail as the gloomy London streets light up once Pettigrew enters the “upscale” scene. The cinematography in this film really looks fantastic and the DVD transfer never once hinders it. The audio track is a 5.1 mix that has solid separation, especially in the later “party” sequences of the film that have more ambience about them. The music is always loud and clear and the musical number with Adams and Pace sounds fantastic.
On Side A (widescreen side) we have a set of extras to flip through. First up are the deleted scenes (8:47), four total, which are presented in the same aspect ratio as the film and are “finished” in that they look like they could have been spliced into the film quite easily without any quality differences. The scenes are solid, but the aforementioned rapid pace of the film may have been hindered a bit by them, as they aren’t the liveliest of sequences. “Miss Pettigrew’s Long Trip to Hollywood” (8:05) is a 4:3 extra that talks about the novels long-time travel to Hollywood. The extra talks about the rights to the film (which were apparently sold to Universal on three different occasions by the original author) and includes input from cast and crew about their thoughts on the novel as well as what it was like to finally bring it to the screen. Side B (full screen side) brings us our final featurette with “Making an Unforgettable Day” (18:23), our making-of documentary that brings us plenty of behind-the-scenes footage and talking heads about the film. This is your standard fluff piece, but unlike other films where you can sometimes tell the actors are just blowing smoke, everyone seems genuinely interested and caught up in the making of the film, which is a refreshing pace to see.
And that wraps…wait, no. There’s one more extra! Despite what the back of the packaging would have you believe, those three pieces aren’t the only extras on the set. The final extra is a full-length commentary with director Bharat Nalluri. I’m not sure why they left this bullet point off of the back of the packaging, perhaps it was a last minute addition, as commentaries are pretty big things when it comes to DVDs. Perhaps because Nalluri isn’t exactly a big name when it comes to movies (I honestly hadn’t heard from him before and the only film of his I’ve heard of is The Crow 3: Salvation which…really isn’t something one should be known for). In any case, Nalluri’s track is rather lighthearted but a lot of fun to listen to. He clearly enjoyed this project as much as the rest of the crew and although it doesn’t exactly run up the same alley as his other works, he really put a lot of effort into the film. Nothing about the directing feels awkward or off-beat and quite often you can appreciate some of the turntable shots and set ups, which he talks about on the track as well.
Overall Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is a fine film with a solid DVD release. Had the commentary not popped up I would’ve been a tad bit disappointed, but its inclusion makes things a whole lot better. Recommended.
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day arrives on DVD on August 19th.