Free to air
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)