Monday, 1 March 2010

Miss Pettigrew: Puttin' on the Savoy

Just a quick post about my thoughts on the film Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day.  It was a light, short film which does nicely to pass the time and the locations and interiors were dazzling.  I especially loved the jazz and big band music.  However, don't expect a faithful adaptation of the novel as plots and characters are quite altered.

I stated before that I didn't warm instantly to the character of Miss Lafosse in the novel but I'm afraid that I didn't like her at all in the film.   She was even ditzier and her instant warmth and protectiveness towards Miss Pettigrew in the novel is not to be found in the film.  Miss Dubarry - my favourite supporting character - is greatly changed and is indeed an adversary of sorts rather than being the woman who teaches Miss Pettigrew about the art of 'self-improvement' (in the looks department, that is).  The bond between the two was completely lacking.

The men in the story are also greatly changed, for example, Michael is near penniless and in Nick's employ and he comes across as less feisty and headstrong than his original incarnation.  Still, it was entertaining to see Lee Pace (of Wonderfalls and Pushing Daisies fame) playing the role of Michael with an English accent (of sorts).  Joe was played by the great Ciarán Hinds but was alas also not as robust and hearty as the book's depiction.

My favourite character of the film was, of course, Miss Pettigrew as portrayed by Frances McDormand.  Her acting was excellent but it was that of a more downtrodden and penniless (indeed starving) Miss Pettigrew.  I think that the film underplayed her gumption and also muted her physical transformation while at the same time removing her naiveté concerning matters of the heart.  The film exaggerated the frivolity in each character but then contrasted it sharply with the threat of World War II, which seemed to hang over all the characters and served as an impetus for them to live a more purposeful life.

It was an entertaining film but I felt that the novel had more charm and they could have included more of it.  I believe that all of the characters would have translated quite well to the screen without the need for personality transplants.  I was surprised to learn that Winifred Watson sold the film rights as long ago as 1939 and that it was to be filmed as a musical but WWII intervened.  I am therefore grateful that it was produced after such a long time and that it helped the sale of Persephone Books and created greater awareness for them and Winifred Watson.  Enjoy it as a movie that bears some resemblance to the book and you shouldn't be disappointed.


Cottage Garden said...

Thank your for your recent comments at my blog and for following along.

I see we share a love of Persephone Books AND the books of Alistair McCall-Smith, I am especially fond of the 'No.1 Ladies' series, which are so charming and life-affirming!

I do like your Sunday Snapshot posts - a great idea!

I'm off to have a further look around now and enter your draw ...


Rochester Reader said...

Thank you for your lovely comments, Jeanne! I hope you enjoyed your visit and will come again soon :-) Are you aware of Persephone Reading Week to be held in the beginning of May and hosted by Paperback Reader and the B Files? Great fun!
AMS is also a good read for me but I have yet to try the No. Ladies'... I really enjoyed the TV series, though.

bookssnob said...

I wasn't overly impressed with this film in comparison to the book if I'm honest. Miss Pettigrew's character wasn't right - I thought she should have been a bit more gutsy - and Delysia had no warmth to her - there was no reason why Miss Pettigrew should want to protect her. It was a nice enough film but it did lack the heart of the novel. Though, it must have been a great business boost for Persephone, I'm sure!

Rochester Reader said...

Welcome bookssnob and thank you for visiting my blog!
I agree with you entirely! It is a shame that they changed the characters so much and lost the warmth, as you say. I also kept wondering why Miss Pettigrew liked Miss Lafosse when she was so superficial. The film created a shared past between the two which wasn't in the book... although I think that it was shared between Miss Pettigrew and Miss Dubarry instead. I was really disappointed in Miss Dubarry as I thought she was great fun in the book.