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Movie Review

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some partial nudity and innuendo

Reviewed by: Marilea Gray
CONTRIBUTOR (first time)

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens, Adults
Comedy, Drama
1 hr. 32 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
March 7, 2008 (wide)
Copyright, Focus Features
Copyright, Focus Features
Copyright, Focus Features
Copyright, Focus Features
Copyright, Focus Features
Copyright, Focus Features
Copyright, Focus Features
Copyright, Focus Features
Copyright, Focus Features
Copyright, Focus Features
Relevant Issues
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True love

Couple in love. Photo copyrighted
What is true love and how do you know when you have found it? Answer

Sex, Love and Relationships
Learn how to make your love the best it can be. Discover biblical answers to questions about sex, marriage, sexual addictions, and more.
Christian living

What advice do you have for new and growing Christians? Answer

How do I know what is right from wrong? Answer

How can I decide whether a particular activity—such as smoking, gambling, etc.—is wrong? Answer


Biblical women with admirable character, include: Mrs. Noah, Mary (mother of Jesus), Esther, Deborah, and Milcah, daugher of Zelophehad.


Sin and the Bible

God’s Law

About the Ten Commandments of the Bible

What does God expect of you?

Do Not Enter

Featuring: Amy Adams, David Alexander, Clare Clifford, Christina Cole, Stephanie Cole, Beatie Edney, Shirley Henderson, Ciarán Hinds, Sarah Kants, Sally Leonard, Frances McDormand, Katy Murphy, Lee Pace, Tom Payne, Tim Potter, Matt Ryan, Mark Strong, Mo Zinal
Director: Bharat Nalluri
“Life on Mars,” “Tsunami: The Aftermath,” “The Crow: Salvation”
Producer: Nellie Bellflower, Jane Frazer, Stephen Garrett, Maggi Townley
Distributor: Focus Features

“Every woman will have her day”

The setting of this story is England during 1939, just before it goes to war with Germany. Miss Pettigrew is a middle-aged governess banned from further employment through an agency, because of her strict moral views. In desperation, she steals a card from the desk of the agent that she believes is a job as governess. When she arrives at the home, she quickly finds out that the job she thought was for a governess for children is really a personal assistant position to a young, upward climbing actress.

After leading a sheltered life, she is quickly exposed to the life of the social climbing society. She is given some quick lessons on how to play the game, and, to keep from being found out and being out on the street, goes along with many deceptions. The first half of the movie shows how she responds to this new life, and how easy it can become to ignore your morals. In the second part of the movie, she begins to realize how easy it can be to compromise, and how it has begun to change her. She then decides what is more important, living by what you believe or going along with people around her. The plot is about recognizing true love and the challenge to stay true to yourself, no matter the consequences.

Frances McDormand is wonderful as Miss Pettigrew. Her transformation and conflict during her day as a personal assistant to the young woman, played by Amy Adams (from the movie “Enchanted”), makes the movie. Amy Adams as Delisya LaFosse, is a character that uses her sexuality to move up the social ladder and get her a role in a play that she desires. At first, she seems like a very shallow person, but, as the movie progresses, she begins sharing with Miss Pettigrew her reasons for her choices and more about her background, to explain how she got to this place.

There are a few scenes with nudity that may be offensive and is the reason I rated it for teens and adults. In the first scene, when Miss Pettigrew arrives at Delisya's home, it shows a partially nude man in bed. There are some innuendo scenes with Delisya that show how she has compromised herself to get what she wants. There is one other semi-nude scene of Delisya when she gets out of the tub after a bath, but it is not sensual. There are a few other innuendos with Delisya and the two men she is courting.

There are a few uses of course language, as well as using the Lord's name in vain. The language, overall, was minimal, which was refreshing in a movie targeted for adults.

During the first part of the movie, it begins to look like it is going to be one in which the sheltered governess is exposed to the world and all that it can offer, with no negative consequences. However, it changes as the movie progresses, and the moral character that she has known her whole life begins to return, and she becomes outraged by the superficial life of the society people. She is disturbed by their behavior and has a positive influence on some of them to learn to live a real life.

Miss Pettigrew mentions that she is a minister's daughter and has led a sheltered life. She does experiment with drinking at a party and seems to enjoy the atmosphere. Later on, however, she sees the lack of depth in the people around her and decides that her morality is an important part of who she is. She rejects the superficiality and encourages Delisya to do the same.

The story has many positive elements, once you get past the first part of the movie. Even though it is not a true comedy, there are many funny moments in the film. The overall theme can be used as a positive discussion about what is most important in life and how compromises can negatively affect someone's life. I was concerned, at first, about the direction of the movie, but was pleased to find that the overall theme supported the religious morality of the character, instead of ridiculing it.

I would not recommend this movie to anyone younger than high school, because of the nudity and adult theme, but for older teens and adults, it is a good movie to remind us of the value holding true to our beliefs.

Violence: Minor / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—I thoroughly enjoyed this movie! Amy Adams did a magnificent job in this film, along with many of the other actors and actresses. This film is a very well done film, and while it may have some sexual innuendos and partial nudity, it is proving a point throughout the movie. It is deserving of the Pg-13 rating and I would use discretion when allowing young people under the age of thirteen to view it, because there is a scene of one of the men Delysia is seeing partially nude in bed and a few scenes of women in loungerie modeling and a few scenes of mild sensuality between Delysia and the men she has relationships with such as kissing. There was a bit of language in it, but not as much as most Pg-13 films this day and age. As a Christian, I feel that anyone that is “mature” enough should see this film,and that you can definitely pull out moral issues for discussion and examples, overall it is a good old fashioned film, and is a comedy as well, the acting is divine and in the end of the film all is happily ever after.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Whitley Curtis, age 20
Neutral—This is a very silly movie with a ridiculous plot. The only reason it is at all watchable is the very good artistic design, with beautiful period costumes (set in 1930s England before the war), the set designs, and the outstanding performances by the always excellent Frances McDormand and the always delightful Amy Adams. The story is about an ambitious and very immoral young actress/singer, played by Adams, and her several lovers. Her social secretary, played to the hilt by McDormand, helps her straighten out her life, wherein lies the somewhat moral and acceptable resolution to the story. This will interest only Frances McDormand fans, which I am, and Amy Adams fans, which I am also.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
Halyna Barannik, age 61
Negative—I can only say I am rather shocked at the bland rating the reviewer has given this film. I would have rated it “extremely offensive.” It went straight from the DVD player into the garbage. Billed as a champagne-light comedy, I found it left a most bitter after-taste. This film uses far more than average nudity to garner “laughs” (incidentally, we didn't chuckle once in the entire viewing). The plot revolves around a starlet who sleeps with men and the unappealing woman who is supposed to guide her life choices. Amy Adam's character uses body language so obscene that I was blushing while watching. There is no apology for her behavior, neither are the results of her actions shown as they are. The filmmakers chose, instead, to “reward” her perfidity by marrying her off to a half-decent guy at the end. Surely, this sort of behavior in real life does not lead to such a promising end—why should we cheat our children and ourselves by lying to them with our entertainment choices?

As a woman, I was also concerned with the image of womanhood presented in the film. Attractive young actresses were cast as manipulative, catty and deceptive. The more boring, “moral” one lies, smokes, swears, and steals right along with everyone else. All this in a film that maintains a frantic, unnatural pace that allows us more time to inspect the period interiors than see any depth of character in the main roles. Amy Adams was especially frustrating to watch, re-enacting her too-sweet cartoon role from “enchanted” in a decidedly unwholesome fashion.

While there were a few moments of sincere adult behavior (mostly between Miss Pettigrew and Joe) the rest of the firm was not only farcical, it was lewd, and had no redemptive value that I could see. It has Hollywood's anthem stamped all over it: “don't judge me for my immorality, just accept me for the fake I am” (in fact, I think those words are stated plainly by the main actress).

If you are considering this movie for a Christian audience, I strongly suggest you look elsewhere—I cannot even think of an age group for which this movie is appropriate—certainly not for a high-school crowd.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Tehilah Leonard, age 32 (Israel)
Comments from young people
Positive—It was a really quirky movie, definitely not suited to everyone's tastes. Amy Adam's character is somewhat ditzy and selfish, but at the same time likeable. Miss Pettigrew is portrayed as a morally upright person and tries to take Delysia under her wing. Overall, I really liked it. There are a few awkward parts (partial nudity, but you never really see anything) and a few swear words. But it's a good movie, and the parts are played well. It's a feel-good movie!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Teresa, age 15
Movie Critics
…This neo-screwball fantasy with the sophisticated wink at its pre-war provenance is the rare movie that might please both escapists and cynics in one delighted swoop.
—Violet Glaze, Baltimore City Paper
…Lighter-than-air social comedy set in London, circa 1939, gives Frances McDormand and Amy Adams wonderfully showy roles. … a self-described ‘fairy tale for adults’…
—Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter
…Delightful… It's not great… but it's immensely satisfying…
—Bill Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic
…The film's pleasures will chiefly appeal to fans of the BBC, for whom such throwback reverie is the bee's knees. …
—Steve Dollar, The New York Sun
…playful, well-acted… Wisely cast, this handsome production is a delightful farcical fairy tale, bolstered by moments of depth and emotion.
—Claudia Puig, USA Today
…Sex/Nudity: Heavy… At least 11 damns, 3 hells, 2 uses each of ‘My God’ and ‘Oh God’ and 1 use each of ‘G-d_mn’ and ‘Oh my G_d.’…