Friday, April 8, 2016
Bharat Nalluri | Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
the long hunger
by Douglas Messerli
David Magee and Simon Beaufoy (screenplay, based on a novel by Winifred Watson), Bharat Nalluri (director) Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day / 2008
Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand), a vicar’s daughter, is clearly not suitable as a nanny; as Bharat Nalluri’s likeable comedy begins, she has just been fired from the third job in a row. Evidently she can handle the children but her moralistic comments to their parents do her in. And Miss Holt at the job placement agency is not about to give her another chance.
As Lafosse’s social secretary, Pettigrew is just bit more capable than being a nanny—if no other reason is that she does have a tendency to intrude to others’ personal lives. Her attempts to lecture the confused Lafosse, however, seem almost pointless since the singer lives in a whirlwind of ridiculous actions that have a velocity of its own. Nonetheless, elder woman does, time and again, save the day.
Lafosse, meanwhile, determines to “fix up” her rather drably dressed new friend, and the two, accordingly, warm-up to one another, bolstering both their out-of-order lives: if Pettigrew can help Lafosse to make better decisions about love, Lafosse transforms her secretary into a more beautiful, forgiving, and loving woman.
Other major figures, the snippy fashion leader, Edythe Dubarry (Shirley Henderson) and lingerie designer Joe Blomfield (Ciarán Hinds) round out a near-perfect cast, who, one by one, are drawn toward Miss Pettigrew the way characters in Being There are drawn to the clueless Chance, the Gardener. Only Pettigrew—forgive the clichés, but the movie calls them up—gives far more specific advice, helping Lafosse to perceive that the penniless pianist is the “one for her,” and winning over the wealthy Joe Blomfield for “a man of her own.”
The metaphor of this pleasant caper is “hunger”; Lafosse and her kind are forever hungry for fame, love, and money, while Pettigrew unsuccessfully tries time and again just to get a bite to eat (only real sustenance in 24 hours is the cucumber rounds laid against her eyes). Finally, at film’s end, Blomfield, asks if she’s eaten breakfast, Pettigrew honestly responding that it has been a long time since she’s had something to eat. In the end, she is the only one to get everything.
Los Angeles, April 8, 2016