Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008)

Rated: PG-13 for some partial nudity and innuendo
Length: 92 minutes
Grade: BBB+B=B
Budget: $60 million
Box Office: $13 million ($12 US, $1 Intl, $ DVD)

Written by: David Magee, who wrote Finding Neverland, and Simon Beaufoy, whose main credit is writing The Full Monty.
Directed by: Bharat Nalluri, who’s mostly directed television episodes for obscure shows like Spooks, Hustle, and Life on Mars.
Starring: Amy Adams, Francis McDormand, Ciarin Hinds, Lee Pace, Tom Payne, and Mark Strong.

Toward the end of the Depression just before World War II in London, an erratic nanny has difficulty keeping a job until she connives herself into becoming the “social secretary” for a society-type actress who is trying to juggle three men in an effort to achieve her own ambitions, stay provided-for, and still honor real love. Pettigrew throws herself into helping the misguided starlet and they struggle through a series of social misadventures over the course of a very exciting day.

Entertainment Value: B
My biggest complaint about this movie is that I simply had difficulty understanding what they were saying until about 15 minutes into the movie. A combination of bad sound mixing, British accents, and fast speaking just confounded me. Nonetheless, the story is fascinating, the characters truly intriguing, and the plot itself refreshing both in its originality and its depth.

Superficial Content: B
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sexuality C, Violence B, Language B, Illegality B
There is plenty of alcohol shown and consumed, but never to drunkenness. Several scenes show Amy Adams in immodest clothing. I’m sorry for the vagueness, but I don’t know how else to describe it. There’s no actual nudity, and there is no sex other than implied relationships she’s having with all three men. One scene has one of her lovers in a bed, implied nude. If it were me, I’d say PG-10 or so. The violence is a fistfight.

Significant Content: B+
Although the big final themes of the entire movie are very good, Miss Pettigrew and others do less-than-ideal things along the way, especially lying. But in the end, this is a movie about conscience and doing what is right. Many of the right things to do in life are not convenient. Marriage and exclusivity are held as clear ideals over other arrangements. It’s also largely about loyalty and being willing to invest in someone with total devotion, as Pettigrew does to Delysia. In life, one must choose which is most important: money, fame, or love. And decent people who suffer hardship can find themselves in the midst of a grand moral struggle in spite of themselves. One additional, and excellent, theme here is the wisdom and sound judgment of those who are older.

Artistic/Thought Value: B
If I thought that all the things I saw in this movie were put there intentionally, I would probably give it an A. But I don’t, so I won’t. For me, this is an epic tale of the modern woman’s dilemma. “Do I believe the feminists who tell me to use my sexuality to my advantage and get my fame and money any way I can or do I trust thousands of years of culture which tell me I will only be truly happy when I go with the man I love and commit to him alone?”

Discussion Questions:
~Delysia says that Michael is her best friend and that he knows her as she really is without judging her. How important are these factors in a spouse? How important is it to be known for who you really are and loved nonetheless? Have you ever felt the need to be fake with people? How did it make you feel about those relationships?
~What do you think about Michael's demand that if she’s going to be with him, she must be with no one else at all? Why don’t the other men make this same demand? Is jealousy in a spouse a good thing? What about in God?
~When someone really loves you, do they indulge you or do they demand from you the best that you’re really capable of?
~In what ways would you say that Miss Pettigrew is Delysia’s conscience?
~Depending on which stories you know, how would you compare this movie to Pinocchio? What about Cinderella? In what ways is this a fairy tale?
~Is Miss Pettigrew a Christ figure? Would you describe her as an evangelist?
~What do you think of Miss Pettigrew's lying in small things in order to get herself into a position of trust with Delysia? Would you call this wise, unethical, or what?
~Is it true that people really know the truth in their hearts?
~At one point Pettigrew comments about the young people oohing and aahing over the military planes that “They don’t remember the last one, do they?” What does she mean, and why is her idea important? In what ways is it actually a good thing for every nation involved in a war to really suffer during that process. Do you think America is hurt by the fact that we haven’t really suffered hardship during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?
~Pettigrew says that not all things in life are convenient, including really good opportunities for what matters. What do you think of this? How is Delysia’s life made complicated by the simple fact that she must choose between what she really wants and what she really wants right now?
Overall Grade: B
Solid. Fresh. Intriguing. Even captivating. If only they had made it easier to understand what was being said.

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