Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. United Kingdom/USA, 2008. Focus Features, Kudos Productions Ltd., Keylight Productions, Twins Financing, Shine Pictures. Screenplay by David Magee, Simon Beaufoy, based on the novel by Winifred Watson. Cinematography by John de Borman. Produced by Nellie Bellflower, Stephen Garrett. Music by Paul Englishby. Production Design by Sarah Greenwood. Costume Design by Michael O’Connor. Film Editing by Barney Pilling.
Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) gets fired from her umpteenth job as governess and needs to pull off a slight swindle in order to keep herself employed. She falls into the hands of a delightfully dizzy cabaret singer (Amy Adams) who needs a “social secretary” in order to climb her way to the top of London’s West End stardom, juggling three beaus and doing her best to survive her nasty social set. Miss Pettigrew ends up being a divine gift, her brutally honest delivery and uncanny knack for figuring people out always helping her bubbly charge when she’s in a fix. This latest entry in the Mrs. Henderson Presents genre features yet another stunning array of World War II-era sets and costumes for the eye to enjoy, and a marvelous performance by Adams who is quite simply the Michelangelo of Frothy but Sincere these days. McDormand gives it her all but her Britishness is never fully believable, while her character is written based more on assumption than information and comes off highly likeable but not nearly as detailed as she should be. Sloppy direction is also a let-down, but there are moments of genius, particularly any time McDormand shares the screen with the marvelous, bewitching Shirley Henderson.