Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Period piece tries too hard to charm.

click to enlarge EVERYTHING'S ROSY: Frances McDormand is a social secretary with a gift for healing love lives in the period piece Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. - Focus Features
Focus Features
EVERYTHING'S ROSY: Frances McDormand is a social secretary with a gift for healing love lives in the period piece Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day.

Bumbling out-of-work governess Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) worms her way into a gig as a social secretary for a fast-living starlet (Amy Adams) and finds herself lighting up lives, including her own, in the fizzy but thoroughly disposable Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day.

The movie takes place in London on the eve of World War II, which is supposed to add an undercurrent of dramatic tension to the lighter-than-air romantic dalliances here, but mostly serves as an excuse to puff up the fluff with swell-looking period costumes and English accents. There's some fun to be had in watching Adams flit about as the promiscuous, aspiring actress (channeling Marilyn Monroe with her breathy, little-girl voice), but the movie too often feels both predictable and hopelessly stagebound as it goes about the business of showing us McDormand's character magically smoothing over the bumps in the love lives of everyone she encounters.

It's obvious from the start who's going to wind up with whom, and by the time the prim and proper Miss Pettigrew loses her inhibitions and hooks up with her own Prince Charming, the movie has all but worn out its welcome. Miss Pettigrew works hard convincing us of its joie de vie, so much so that it's sometimes almost a bit painful watching it struggle. The movie is supposed to be all about effortless charm, but it makes the fundamental mistake of forgetting to never let 'em see you sweat.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (PG-13) Stars Amy Adams, Frances McDormand, Lee Pace, Ciaran Hinds, Shirley Henderson and Mark Strong. Opens March 7 at local theaters. 2.5 stars

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