Hollywood keeps trying to revive the screwball comedy, but instead of Cary Grant trading double-entendres at machine gun pace with high heeled, hard-boiled dames, we get clunkers like George Clooney's Leatherheads.
But with its opening bedroom farce, nightclub confrontation and breathless bon mots, Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day does its darndest to bring the past to life.
When downtrodden governess Guinevere Pettigrew (McDormand) is unceremoniously sacked in 1939 London, she finds herself, literally, on the breadline.
In desperation, she 'steals' an assignment from her former agency, and lands in the apartment and employ of Delysia LaFosse (Adams), a flighty but ambitious American nightclub singer.
As 'social secretary', Miss Pettigrew is expected to help Delysia navigate her complicated love life. Sleazy nightclub boss Nick (Mark Strong) may own the flat, but theatre impresario Phil (Tom Payne) is the naked fella in her bed, and the man who can make Delysia a West End star.
One quick makeover later and Miss Pettigrew is glammed up and ready for the third man in Delysia’s life, poor but passionate pianist Michael (Pace).
With further complications from lingerie man Joe (Hinds) and his fashionable fiancée Edythe (Shirley Henderson), clergyman’s daughter Miss Pettigrew struggles to cope with this dizzyingly scandalous social set.
Amy Adams’ Delysia is essentially a risqué version of her Enchanted ingénue, but the wide-eyed starlet’s irrepressible sparkle makes typecasting a moot point as she captivates and conquers Miss Pettigrew and audiences alike.
But the bedrock of the film is Frances McDormand. No one can imbue dour and dowdy with quite as much charm as the Fargo star and Oscar winner, and her growing friendship with Ciaran Hinds’ unlikely undergarments designer beautifully complements Delysia’s dalliances.
The costumes and scenery are all stunning and period-perfect, with Henderson in particular looking like she walked straight off the set of ‘The Women’.
They don't make them like that anymore? Well, no. But Miss Pettigrew makes for a fun, fluffy substitute.