Frances McDormand plays Guenevere Pettigrew, a down-on-her-luck governess who's been dismissed from every position she's had. Homeless and penniless in 1939 London still feeling the Depression, she hijacks a job referral from the employment agency that's given up on her. Instead of a governess job the position is as "social secretary" to singer and aspiring musical star "Delysia Lafosse" (Amy Adams) who desperately needs someone's help juggling the three men in her life. These are (in order of appearance) "Phil" (Tom Payne), a budding West End producer who is considering Delysia as a possible star in his new revue; "Nick" (Mark Strong), her current meal ticket and owner of the nightclub where she sings; and "Michael" (Lee Pace), her pianist/accompanist and long-time lover who wants her to marry him and go back to New York.
Necessity inspires Miss Pettigrew sufficiently to stage a rescue and she gets drawn into Delysia's whirlwind life, much to her own bemusment.
We enjoyed the movie thouroughly. The plot has just enough small surprises to be amusing but not "fragmented" as some critics have alleged. Were it not for a couple flashes of buttocks (equal opportunity, both Payne and Adams), and rather heavy sexual innuendo regarding Delysia's affairs, the film could almost have been made in 1939, starring perhaps Katherine Hepburn as Guenevere, Carole Lombard as Delysia, and Cary Grant as one of the men.
Ms. McDormand channels Hepburn very well and handles her gags with skill, but Amy Adams, appropriately for her character, steals any scene she is in. This role confirms what we had noticed in "Enchanted;" she is a very talented physical actress and has the "Delysia" character's presence absolutely down, from the frenetic flounce when we first encounter her, to the sultry slink as a nightclub siren. The three swains are pleasantly done uni-dimensional plot props: randy Phil, posessive Nick, and loyal Michael, respectively. In a story done over twenty-four hours, there isn't a lot of scope for villainy, but Shirley Henderson ("Edythe Dubarry", familar as "Moaning Myrtle" in the "Harry Potter" films) gives it a good shot, trying to enlist Miss Pettigrew in her scheme to ensnare "Joe" (Ciaran Hinds).
The film is nicely shot, with very attractive period costumes, and beautiful heavily Art Deco influenced interiors, ranging from Nick's palatial apartment, the Savoy Hotel, Edythe's salon, and the "Scarlet Peacock" nightclub.
Reccommended. The film is PG-13 for the aformentioned brief nudity and sexual references.