Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Day with Miss Pettigrew

I've been putting off writing this review for a week, mostly because I'm a lazy bum, but partially because I can't figure out how to talk about it without sounding like a giggly little girl. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is just that kind of movie. After I watched it, I wanted to dress up and go out on the town!

Guinevere Pettigrew, played to perfection by Frances McDormand, is a frumpy, fussy governess who can't keep a job. When her umpteenth job lands her on the streets with nothing to her name, she returns to the staffing agency just to be told there will never be work for her again. In an act of desperation, Miss Pettigrew pretends to be something she isn't and ends up becoming the social secretary for Amy Adams' Delysia Lafosse. Delysia is a singer/actress who uses her talents in bed to get ahead, and Miss Pettigrew acts as her anchor. The women spend an eventful day and night together figuring out love, destiny, and dealing with the beginning of World War II.

Miss Pettigrew
is definitely what I would call "screwball light." The women are strong and outspoken. The men are handsome and eloquent, and the physical comedy is kept to a minimum. Because it's so light and airy, this movie would be lost without its phenomenal cast.

It takes a certain actor to really pull off screwball comedy. Cary Grant was the master. Irene Dunne and Carole Lombard were spectacular too. But there aren't many modern-day actors who can really do it like they could. Fortunately, some of the ones who can are in this movie.

Frances McDormand, as always, is spectacular as Miss Pettigrew. Anyone familiar with her work knows she's an incredible character actor, and now we finally get to see her as a lead...with a romantic interest no less!

Amy Adams is perfectly perky. She seems to be playing the same character as she did in Enchanted, just with a very dark place added. Her effervescence is simply intoxicating, and juxtaposed with McDormand's stern and somewhat shy character makes for a flawless pairing.

The supporting cast is just as good. Shirley Henderson's wavery, high-pitched voice works with her character's furtive ways. Just listening to her coerce Miss Pettigrew sent chills up my spine, and a normal-voiced person (no offense intended) couldn't pull it off the way she does.

Lee Pace is absolutely adorable (and a dead-ringer for Clive Owen) as the talented pianist Michael.

And then there's Ciran Hinds. The "that guy" in the movie. I fell in love with his Joe Blumfield as soon as he spoke his first line. The chemistry between him and McDormand is palpable. When a man can make you a little weak in the knees just by complementing a scarf, it's pretty amazing.

If you love a good screwball comedy along the lines of My Favorite Wife, or if you just wish you could have one of those memorable days that changes your life forever, then you need to live this day with Miss Pettigrew.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The One Where Ross Directed

It may be predictable. It may be a little silly. But Run, Fat Boy, Run is a sweet, funny, entertaining movie that I think everyone who loves sweet, funny and entertaining movies should see.

Simon Pegg is Dennis. A guy who really doesn't have a lot going for him. On his wedding day, he gets extremely cold feet and runs out on his fiancé Libby (Thandie Newton)...who's pregnant. Five years later, he's working a dead-end job, living in a crappy flat, with no love life whatsoever. His life takes another nosedive when he finds out that Libby is serious about an American (Hank Azaria) who's extremely well off--physically and financially. In a bold, if not utterly stupid, attempt to win back Libby's love, Dennis decides to enter the city marathon that Witt (the American) is also running.

If you know anything about marathons, it's good to train FAR in advance. It's absolutely ridiculous to think that an out-of-shape man, whose only run involved chasing a transvestite underwear thief, would be able to compete in a full marathon. That fact makes the movie that much more fun.

In Dennis' mere three weeks of training, he has the help of his crazy landlord Mr. Ghoshdashtidar (Harish Patel) and his gambling friend Gordon (Dylan Moran), both who have a stake in the game. Mr. Ghoshdashtidar's daughter plans to evict Dennis if he doesn't run, but Mr. G has a strange faith in Dennis. Gordon, who doesn't seem to be the greatest friend a man could have, has bet money he doesn't have that Dennis will complete the marathon. In a series of cheesy montage scenes (what montage isn't cheesy), we see Dennis quickly melt away his prosthetic pot belly and become a semi-decent runner.

Simon Pegg never fails to make me laugh. The guy just has a knack for being the pitiful one who always saves the day. Thandie Newton plays her part well, but nothing to write home to Mom about. Hank Azaria, for possibly the first time ever, plays the straight man. I don't mean the non-gay man, I mean the non-funny man. He does no accents, no weird physical comedy, nothing. He's just the guy the girl shouldn't be with whom we're all supposed to hate.

For his feature directorial debut, I must say that David Schwimmer did a very fine job. The movie stays real and nothing that shouldn't be forced feels forced. As I said before, it's sweet and funny and entertaining. With the whirlwind of depressing, achingly serious movies from last year, a nice light indie comedy is a really good thing.