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'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day'

A governess teams up with a showgirl to amiably comic effect in this splashy period piece: Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) is a frump who blooms, Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams) is, as her stage name suggests, delicious from the start, and the only real question is how long it will take the various men in their lives to realize how splendid they are.

That would be rather a lot of men, in Delysia's case. When Miss Pettigrew comes into her life, the starlet is juggling the attentions of a theater producer (Tom Payne), a nightclub owner (Mark Strong) and an accompanist (Lee Pace), which somehow still leaves her time to give Miss Pettigrew a makeover, throw a huge cocktail party, and — well, suffice it to say there's a lot going on in her day. Miss Pettigrew, who appears at Delysia's penthouse wearing all of her worldly possessions, is at first unnerved and later delighted to find herself swept up in all the activity, but nonetheless keeps her wits about her.

Nothing in director Bharat Nalluri's credits (The Crow III, TV's Tsunami: The Aftermath) remotely suggests he'd be someone you'd choose to stage a glamorous, witty period comedy. But he proves an adept mimicker of styles, and by blending Blake Edwards' knack for character and timing (think Victor/Victoria) and George Cukor's fashion sense (see The Women, especially) with just a touch of Bollywood (in the sumptuous deco decor), he's approximated a bit of the fizz, if not the wholesale effervescence, of classic Hollywood comedies.

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Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.