I’m not sure exactly when I knew this movie would turn out to be an all-time favorite. Perhaps it was the moment when Miss Pettigrew, starved in so many ways, eats the cucumbers placed on her eyes as part of a spa treatment. Or maybe it was the moment when Michael asks for an icepick “for murder, not ice,” during his first appearance or perhaps it’s when Miss Pettigrew chastises the rest of the cast for all their emotional flittering. “Love is not a game.”
But my all-time favorite scene from the movie is when Miss Pettigrew advises Delysia on love while hiding under a piano during an air raid drill. Miss Pettigrew knows what it’s like to be in love with someone and to lose him. “He smiled when he looked at me and we could’ve built a life on that.” But Miss Pettigrew’s love died “in the mud in France,” and Delysia must not make the same mistake and lose her love, Michael, for any reason.
The movie is about how Miss Pettigrew, a failed governess, takes over the job of social secretary for a cabaret singer who is hiding secrets of her own, all the while juggling three different men, though she loves only one. It’s done in a style deliberately reminiscent of the classic Hollywood comedies and the dialogue especially shines.
I could go on and on about why I love this movie but I’ll stick to five main reasons:
1. The Older and Younger Women Each Receive a Satisfying Romance.
So often, romance is for the young while the older characters look on without being acknowledged as having full romantic lives. Extra bonus points because the two women become solid friends and treasure each other all the more after they learn each other’s secrets.
2. The music!
Amy Adams is in fine form as cabaret singer Delysia and she’s accompanied well by Lee Pace’s Michael on piano. But there’s also the soundtrack, full of wonderful music reminiscent of the late 1930s time period in which the movie is set.
3. The Men!
Michael, of course, and Ciaran Hinds as Joe, who manages to be charming while talking about socks, Mark Strong playing against type as the slimy cabaret owner, and Tom Payne as Philip. (Later to appear on The Walking Dead.)
4. The Melancholy That Infuses the Movies and Provides Its Depth.
It’s not just the story of a group of cabaret performers and the woman who pretends to be a social secretary. It’s also the story of a world that’s ending and all the characters realize it to one extent or the other. Miss Pettigrew and Joe know that another war is imminent and there’s not going to be time for many things for many people. Time to seize the moment.
5. The Ending.
So many romantic movies overdo the ending, either making it too sweet or not sweet enough. But Joe’s arrival at the railroad station the night after Miss Pettigrew’s triumphant day is perfect. “I’ve been looking for you all night, and, I suspect, all my life.” The way Frances McDormand’s face lights up after his declaration of love is one of the most beautiful expressions of joy on-screen that I’ve ever seen.
I just sigh happily when it’s all over and debate when I should watch it gain.
Corrina Lawson, Blogger