A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is essentially a feel-good fairy tale, albeit one with adult overtones. There's some partial nudity -- Amy Adams parades around in one scene with nothing but a towel covering her front, for example -- and a handful of innuendoes. The plot is fairly mature, too, in that it's about a woman who craves stardom and will do everything -- including bed a producer -- to achieve it, even if it means losing the one man who's right for her. But there's no swearing except for "damn," and the smoking and social drinking are accurate for the late-'30s setting. And the movie approaches its heavier topics with a delightfully light touch, ultimately sending a positive, life-affirming message.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) is no Mary Poppins, which may explain why she keeps losing one governess job after another. And when her agency won't give her any more work, she's left penniless and homeless. Luckily, she manages to finagle her way into a job as a social secretary for Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams), a kind-hearted but fiercely ambitious starlet who needs all the help she can get to keep her engagements -- professional and personal (she's juggling three beaus) -- in check. In just 24 hours, Miss Pettigrew does, indeed, make a difference in Delysia's life. And, much to her surprise, vice versa.
Is it any good?
Based on the 1939 novel by Winifred Watson, MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY exudes the jaunty fun of a high-society London bent on squeezing the last bit of joy out of life before heading to war. From the costumes to the Cole Porter- and piano-heavy score, all of the period details are flawless. And Adams is absolutely delightful in her role -- naughty and nice and infinitely expressive without being over the top. (Watch her twitch her nose and stick out her two front teeth when referring to a rabbity competitor and try not to be charmed.) As the well-grounded Miss Pettigrew, McDormand, clad in sensible brown shoes and a prudent wool coat, is the perfect foil to Adams' flighty, lingerie-bedecked heroine. Left to their own devices, they start the movie unmoored; together, they bring out each other's best self.
Still, as engaging as its two stars may be, on close inspection, the movie feels fragile. Its charm is winning, but plot-wise, it's precarious. Yes, it's a fairy tale, but its underpinnings barely hold it together (a little like Delysia, actually). Although we get to know Delysia well enough, the same can't be said for Miss Pettigrew -- not enough to believe that she's never lived until this one day, anyway. But sometimes we just want to go to the movies to be entertained, and that Miss Pettigrew does.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what drives Delysia to succeed. Do you see any parallels between her situation and that of today's aspiring media stars? Why are people willing to make sacrifices to be famous? Families can also discuss why Miss Pettigrew has such an effect on Delysia. What effect does she have on Miss Pettigrew? In the movie, they both undergo an overnight change; is that believable? If not, does it matter? What do they learn from each other?
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