When good things hap­pen to good peo­ple

MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY Di­rected by Bharat Nal­luri. Star­ring Frances McDor­mand, Amy Adams, Ciaran Hinds, Shirley Henderson, Lee Pace

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews - DON­ALD CLARKE

re­lease, 92 min OF ALL the ad­jec­tives that be­stow faint praise, “heart-warm­ing” is, per­haps, the most damn­ing of the lot. “In­spi­ra­tional” sug­gests sen­ti­men­tal­ity. Some­thing “life-af­firm­ing” will prob­a­bly make you want to kill your­self. But the last thing you need in the cin­ema is a warmed heart.

And yet. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, a sprightly com­edy based on a durable novel by Winifred Wat­son, re­ally does a fine job of mak­ing you feel good about the world – though it does cer­tainly have its more som­bre cor­ners.

Set in Lon­don’s West End shortly be­fore the out­break of the sec­ond World War, Bharat

PG cert, lim Nal­luri’s film, which takes place over one event­ful day, finds its char­ac­ters get­ting ready to whis­tle in the dark. At one stage, a party is in­ter­rupted by the noise of low- fly­ing bombers. While walk­ing through a posh ar­cade, Frances McDor­mand’s sat-upon gov­erness and Amy Adams’s bud­ding ac­tress en­counter show­room dum­mies wear­ing gas masks. But the ul­ti­mate mes­sage is that de­cent peo­ple can, from time to time, profit from be­hav­ing de­cently. That’s some­thing worth say­ing.

The film be­gins with Miss Pettigrew (McDor­mand), de­pressed, poor and bad at her job, wan­gling a post as the so­cial sec­re­tary for the noisy, flir­ta­tious, but es­sen­tially good-hearted Delysia Lafosse (Adams). While the mu­si­cal star jug­gles men and tries to sleep her way into a West End lead, her new fac­to­tum de­vises half-truths to keep one suitor away from the next. Delyssia treats Miss Peti­grew to a makeover and Miss Peti­grew treats Delyssia to a few brac­ing truths.

Nal­luri, pre­vi­ously a di­rec­tor of Bri­tish television, has de­liv­ered a very set-bound en­ter­tain­ment. In­deed, so much of the film takes place in Delysia’s apart­ment that one be­gins to think one­self watch­ing a stage play. McDor­mand’s English ac­cent wan­ders a bit and Shirley Henderson’s evil so­cialite re­ally be­longs in a bad pan­tomime. But the chem­istry be­tween McDor­mand and Adams – the for­mer slowly ceas­ing to be a squashed cab­bage leaf, the lat­ter fired with the en­ergy of a great screw­ball hero­ine – causes happy sparks to dance about the pro­duc­tion.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is not quite life-af­firm­ing, and you wouldn’t, thank heav­ens, call it in­spi­ra­tional. But, yes, it’s cer­tainly heart-warm­ing.

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