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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television - Evan Wil­liams

CORNY, sen­ti­men­tal, im­prob­a­ble and rather twee, Miss Pet­ti­grew Lives for a Day (Satur­day, 1.30pm, Nine) is in the tra­di­tion of gen­teel English women’s fic­tion. But few re­cent films have given me more plea­sure. When we first meet Miss Pet­ti­grew (Frances McDor­mand) she has been sacked from her job as a Lon­don gov­erness. With no prospect of other work, she pinches the call­ing card of a scat­ter-brained Hol­ly­wood ac­tress called Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams) and man­ages to get her­self ap­pointed as Delysia’s so­cial sec­re­tary. Her du­ties in this role are largely un­spec­i­fied. But Miss Pet­ti­grew soon makes her­self in­dis­pens­able by sort­ing out Delysia’s com­plex ro­man­tic en­tan­gle­ments. Af­ter a makeover at the hands of Lon­don’s top hair­dressers and cou­turi­ers, Miss P’s trans­for­ma­tion is com­plete. What lifts the story above the level of soap and sit­com is a brac­ing sense of irony, aided by the com­pelling pres­ence of McDor­mand. No one can turn a nat­u­ral gauch­eness and dowdi­ness to such ad­van­tage. The pro­duc­tion de­sign (wartime Lon­don) is sump­tu­ously good and the end­ing un­ex­pect­edly mov­ing. Miss Pet­ti­grew is a charmer.

Phil Noyce made his name with News­front be­fore in­tro­duc­ing Ni­cole Kid­man to the world with his su­perb thriller Dead Calm in 1989. It was his pass­port to Hol­ly­wood, where he di­rected two box-of­fice hits with Har­ri­son Ford, Pa­triot Games and Clear and Present Dan­ger. Based on a Tom Clancy novel, Pa­triot Games (Satur­day, 9.40pm, Seven) is among the best ac­tion thrillers of the 1990s, with Ford play­ing Jack Ryan, a CIA man on hol­i­day in Lon­don who foils an IRA ter­ror­ist at­tack. Noyce’s fel­low Aussie Don McAlpine took care of the cam­er­a­work, and there’s a top sup­port­ing cast in­clud­ing James Fox and Sa­muel L. Jack­son.

Otto Preminger’s The Man with the Golden Arm (Wed­nes­day, 12.35am, ABC1) was the first Hol­ly­wood film to tackle drug ad­dic­tion, a sen­sa­tion in the 50s. Frank Si­na­tra de­liv­ers a star­tlingly pow­er­ful per­for­mance as a junkie card-sharp des­per­ate to kick his heroin habit. The scenes in which he goes cold turkey are es­pe­cially har­row­ing.

Sun­set Boule­vard (Mon­day, 1.10am, ABC1) is Billy Wilder’s im­per­ish­able satire on Hol­ly­wood sleaze and am­bi­tion, and there’s a cer­tain irony in the thought that Glo­ria Swan­son achieved in real life what her char­ac­ter, Norma Des­mond, could not — fame, for­tune and pub­lic adu­la­tion. The film makes a fine com­pan­ion piece to All About Eve, an­other bit­ter re­flec­tion on show­biz nos­tal­gia, re­leased a year later (in 1951). The story of Sun­set Boule­vard is nar­rated from the grave by Wil­liam Holden, whose body is found float­ing in a swim­ming pool in the open­ing scene. It’s a film full of fa­mous lines such as: All right, Mr DeMille, I’m for my close-up.’’

(M) ★★★★★ Mon­day, 1.10am, ABC1 ★★★ ✩ Satur­day, 1.30pm, Nine

(M) ★★★ ✩ Satur­day, 9.40pm, Seven (NSW, Qld, WA only)


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