"That's Typing" Tuesday, in which I share unpolished, unpublished writings from my vast store of unpolished, unpublished writings. On Tuesdays.
From my notes about Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, a 2008 screwball comedy starring Frances McDormand and Amy Adams.
a rarity now, a romantic comedy for adults about adults—and more to the point—about adults behaving like adults ... the sort of thing that studios cranked out by the basketful in the 1930s to great effect ... Hollywood has largely forgotten how to make movies like this; worse still, audiences have forgotten how to watch them.
Frances McDormand as Miss Pettigrew ... neither glam'ed up nor glamorously made plain in the fashion of Hollywood ... simply allowed to inhabit that long face and those impossible cheekbones.
... Amy Adams plays Delysia LeFosse like an Egyptian embalmer has sucked her brain out with a straw—I mean that as a compliment—the sort of role Carole Lombard could have played in her sleep. On the face of it, she's a golddigger, sleeping with three different men, sometimes within minutes of each other, mostly for what they can give her; she's has the attention span of a three year old—"There is something so sensual about fur next to the skin, don't you think?"—and she's the sort of housekeeper who disposes of oyster shells in a kitchen drawer. But her scheming is so transparent, there's a sort of honesty in it, and she's so accepting of the odd, gawky Miss Pettigrew, seeing her not as an inferior but as a soul mate, that you can't help but like her.
This is a performance that could have easily gone wrong ...
As the story opens, Delysia and Miss Pettigrew meet on the thin margin between having and having not ... a major theme of the movie, how precarious it is being a woman in what, in 1939, was very much a man's world ... so that even your enemies are kindred spirits when you're jostling for a spot in the same boat ...
... not so much a love story as a story about figuring out what's worth loving ...
Both McDormand and her unexpected, rather low-key love interest, perfectly underplayed by Ciarán Hinds (Persuasion, Munich), were in their early fifties when this was filmed. ... The trivial pursuits of youth are in their rearview mirror, and with World War II coming on, they know that everything from now on is played for keeps ... adds an undercurrent of melancholy to the daffy proceedings. ... reminds me very much of My Man Godfrey in that regard ...
Based on a novel published in 1938, I get the impression the book's author, Winifred Watson, spent a lot of time at the movies—Miss Pettigrew would fit nicely on a bill with Stage Door and Gold Diggers of 1933 or, for that matter, Pygmalion and Lady For A Day.
Question for my readers: If you were casting this movie in the 1930s, who would you cast as the two leads?
Note: I've now finished watching movies for my essay about 1916. I should have that up in the next few days.
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