Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Rated 3.0

In 1939 London, a dowdy governess (Frances McDormand) becomes social secretary to a nightclub singer (Amy Adams) with a complicated love life. Writers David Magee and Simon Beaufoy adapt Winifred Watson’s 1938 novel (rediscovered in 2000) as a retro-’30s comedy of manners without quite supplying the effervescent dialogue and razor-sharp characters the form requires; under Bharat Nalluri’s dutiful direction, the movie never quite bubbles over the way we expect and hope it will. But thank goodness someone thought to cast McDormand and Adams in a movie together. They’re two deft and canny pros who know how to play to one another’s considerable strengths; we sense and share the fun they’re having. Ciarán Hinds (stalwart and decorous) and Shirley Henderson (catty with a poisonous purr) provide support.