Francis McDormand in ‘Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day’ on Amazon Prime

The bouncy little screwball romance Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008) is a fizzy cocktail of a movie set in depression-era London, where the beautiful people dance away in fabulous fashions and decadent distraction.

Frances McDormand is the dowdy Guinevere Pettigrew, a buttoned-down yet free-thinking governess whose unorthodox ways have landed her on the bread lines and, in a desperate act of reference-poaching, in the employ of a dizzy American chanteuse (the irrepressibly seductive Amy Adams) sleeping her way to show-biz success.

As the title suggests, it’s one day of crazy shenanigans, where characters play the game in make-believe identity makeovers while choosing between ambition and love. The impending clouds of World War II give that decision more gravity than it might otherwise. Director Bharat Nalluri never quite captures the delirious screwball abandon of his inspirations – it’s more nostalgic recall than effortless revival – but it’s spirited enough to carry you away with it.

The bubbly, sexy, impulsive energy of Amy Adams picks up the film whenever the pace drags and the marvelous chemistry between McDormand and Ciaran Hinds, who plays a fashion designer with bemused dignity and warm generosity, offers a mature counterpart to the flighty sex comedy. And if that’s not enough, the fantasy of silky fashions and decadent hideaways and delirious night-life playgrounds males for an irresistible high society neverland for adults where true love still finds a way.

Lee Pace, Mark Strong, and Shirley Henderson costar. David Magee and Oscar-winner Simon Beaufoy adapt the novel by Winifred Watson.

Rated PG-13

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Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (Widescreen & Full Screen Edition)

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Blu-ray and DVD features commentary by director Bharat Nalluri, which all fairly cool and calm, more observational than introspective or revelatory; you won’t hear any juicy stories from the set. More interesting to anyone swept away by the fabulousness of the film’s high society world is the 18-minute “Making an Unforgettable Day,” which takes you into the creation of the grand apartments and lavish clubs, the parties, the fashions, the music, the whole glamorous culture of the rich and oblivious. “Miss Pettigrew’s Long Trip to Hollywood” explores the novel’s origins and curious history (it was actually optioned by Hollywood in 1941, a project put on hold after Pearl Harbor). Also features over eight minutes of deleted and alternate scenes, including an alternate opening scene.

Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears at, Turner Classic Movies online, The Film Noir Foundation, and Parallax View.

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