Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Katzman Cinema Komments # 12–3/29/08

Filed under: Humor,Katzman's 13 Vintage Movie Reviews,Katzman's Cinema Komments — Bob at 4:38 pm on Saturday, March 29, 2008

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a day (2008).  This movie is still playing, evidently an art house hit, meaning about 5,000 people have gone to see it in the few cities where it’s currently lighting up the screens.  And that’s a pity.

Lots of film reviewers have expressed their opinions about the virtues of this film, so why bother adding my obscure voice to theirs?  Well, I loved it, but not at first.  I responded to different aspects of the movie, and then to the wonderful cast.  It is truly a “Hollywood Movie” except they don’t make delicious kitsch like this anymore.

What struck me was the marvelous attention to detail that the set decorator, or art director, or whoever paid for everything devoted to this movie, to create a fantasy type of hyper-reality in (just barely) pre-war London.  

From the nightclub scenes to the lamps decorating an entranceway of an upper class house, to the great clothes everyone wore, this movie is a triple-scoop banana split for the eyes.  With syrup dripping everywhere.  Nothing in real life ever looked this good.

I went to art school for five years and am the son of an interior decorator who dragged me through the Chicago Merchandise Mart from the age of five to fourteen.  I must have absorbed something from the million hours I was involuntarily exposed to a myriad of color charts displaying thirty paint chips of very slightly different shades of red, or blue, or even blacks and whites. 

Color matters.  It affects mood and attitude.  People who appreciate the vast variations in colors are able to enjoy a significantly different, more vivid world than most people do.

In this so interesting recreation of another time and place that never really was, both the good guys and the bad guys are handsome, and perfectly integrated into their surroundings, like essential pieces of a mosaic. 

To me, a few of the players were like cartoons come to life, instead of flesh and blood actors, and that’s a compliment.  One in particular, in a supporting role is Shirley Henderson.  She is the cheating and especially petty and nasty grasping girlfriend of one of the romantic leads in the movie, the wealthy lingerie designer, Ciaran Hinds. 


She appears to be of the slight, delicate stature of Edith Piaf, the frail French “Little Flower” who died young after a brilliant singing career.  Except Ms. Henderson conveyed to me the personification of a slithering cockroach, if such a thing is possible.  I imagined her little snakelike forked tongue flicking in and out.  She is so easy to hate, and her eventual self-immolation is therefore all the more satisfying.

Ciaran Hinds, a mature actor of fifty-five born in 1953 in Belfast, Ireland, has a big imposing  and proud  screen presence and is appearing in one film after another now.  The first time I noticed him was as part of the assassination squad of Israelis relentlessly tracking down the killers of eleven of the 1972 Israeli Olympic athletic team, in Munich (2006). 

His relaxed comfortable-in-his-own-skin confident physical presence, his soft-spoken manner of speaking and his timing make him impossible to ignore whenever he is on the screen.  He is a movie star.  I assume he will be in movie after movie, from this point on.  

Mark Strong, who portrays an Italian night club owner, in his big band fantasy nightclub, is actually English.  I guess they couldn’t find any real tall dark and handsome Italians to play the part in England so Mark was the best they could do, which is still really good.  But then, people always assume I’m Italian, though I’m not.  I read once that casting directors love to cast Italians as cowboys because to them, they “looked the part.”

This is all very confusing.  Maybe no one is actually Italian.  Maybe Italy is filled with people like me who just seem to be Italian.  Readers, one could legitimately call this a digression.  I’ll move on.

Frances McDormand plays Miss Guinevere Pettigrew in a My Fair Lady type of way, but even with changing her dowdy clothes for fashionable ones, and getting her stringy hair artfully arranged and in full make-up on her honestly plain face, no one would ever mistake her for Audrey Hepburn.  

 What McDormand has is presence, honesty, grit and heart in every role I’ve seen her in, which includes the indie hit Fargo (1996).  She is in the final scene with Hinds and I left the movie theater happy and smiling.

Lee Pace is the tall handsome good guy (not Italian either) who plays a piano player in Mark’s night club and is Mark’s rival for a lady’s favors.   He’s only in a few short scenes, but his face is a surprising palette of emotions.   I never heard of him before, but I know I will see him more often, soon.

Which brings me to the very interesting Amy Adams.   The meteoric girl-next-door Amy Adams.  I find her to be curious.  Maybe she prayed to the tooth fairy or wished upon a star, but man she went from nothin’ to somethin’ in a flash.

Her first break was in the surprising breakout indie movie, Junebug (2005), as a hugely pregnant non-stop talking, sweet enough to give you a cavity, country girl.  Then, in what seemed to be twenty minutes later, she starred in a pull out all the stops-type of razz-ma-tazz Disney musical, Enchanted  (2007) complete with live action, self-conscious humor and hundreds of animated creature and one very sexy evil witch (Susan Sarandon, still hot at over sixty).  Amy sings.  Amy dances.  Amy, the princess, pretends to be strict with her animated forest subjects, who just l-o-v-e her!!

I am not being mean and nasty, in case that thought crossed anyone’s mind.  My very picky eleven year-old daughter, Sarah, absolutely loved Enchanted, and so did I.  It was terrific, and Amy Adams came across to me as a kind of Betty Boop, come to life and living in Hollywood as a working actress.  But Betty would also pose part-time as a model for the Sears catalog, because she really was a “girl next door” type, and not some hot chick that caused men to breathe heavy.

In Miss Pettigrew, where Amy poses as the classy and slinky Miss Delysia LaFosse, but who is actually a simple American girl from Pennsylvania named Sarah Grubb, she is supposed to be this irresistible cupcake that makes rich worldly men swoon, and as the movie makes pretty clear, she does what she has to do to keep them coming back for her.

Except, to me, even though Amy Adams can furnish a dozen different emotions on demand, and change the expressions on her face in a split second, there is no time I was watching her in this movie that I didn’t feel like I was watching an unusually gifted actress in a high school play.  You can see her acting.  She is a cartoon, but not an engaging one.  It was a mistake to cast her as a sex symbol because, Amy baby…you ain’t.

Whatever it is that stirs men and instantly arrests their movement to instead watch a great dame cross the street, Amy Adams doesn’t have what Hollywood once called “IT” and later, “Oomph!”  Both meant molten sex appeal. 

There is even a gratuitious and playful nearly nude scene where Amy is getting out of a bathtub, but Miss Pettigrew’s head is always in just the right (or wrong) place to block the audience’s view of Amy’s charms.  Maybe that scene’s there to remind us that Amy’s sexy, in case we all forgot.  Well, she’s a very nice looking, and dripping wet, yet to me, she’s still the mildly-distracting…girl-next-door. 

Ya got it or ya don’t.

Monica Bellucci has it, Bridget Bardot, the ice skater Katerina Witt,  Claudia Schiffer, Sophia Loren, Halley Berry, French actress Leslie Caron, Joan Collins (but only with her clothes on, strangely), Juliet Binoche, Uma Thurman, Selma Hayek, Holly Hunter, Niomi Watts, Maria Bello (sigh…) Isabella Rossellini and her mom, Ingrid Bergman, Christina Applegate, Diane Keaton (still), Jennifer Lopez, Tuesday Weld, Jean Harlow,  Melanie Griffith, Keira Knightly, Catherine Deneuve, Whoopey Goldberg (if she feels like it), Jean Simmons, Linda Ronstadt, slim Meg Tilly (but NOT her curvy sister, Jennifer) and Betty Page…pant, pant…all had, or have “IT”, and Marilyn Monroe, of course, owned it.   

But June Allyson, Jodie Foster, Joan Allen, Kate Hudson, Reese Witherspoon (even though she really tries), Meryl Streep, Brittney Murphy, Alicia Silverstone, Vivian Leigh, Olivia de Havilland, Drew Barrymore, Katherine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Vanessa Williams, Jane Russell (despite her much hyped Golden Gate Bridge-type engineering, supporting her mythic upper dimensions) Rosalind Russell, Imogene Coca, Peggy Lee, Donna Reed, Jayne Mansfield and Ginger Rogers…don’t.  Or didn’t.

Yes, they are all to one degree or another extremely gifted actresses or singers or talented people whom I admire and have bought tickets to see, but they’re not sex symbols.  You may or may not agree with this name or that (and I guess a great debate about this whole conjecture could be a kind of party game) but seriously, I ask you:

If you wanted to send a lethal femme-fatale type of woman, whose essential mission was to seduce a Nazi General to give up his battle plans by promising he could then easily gain access to her irresistiable”favors’, and it was a do or die situation where failure wasn’t an option….now think about this…would dear, sweet Amy Adams be on your short list of Dynamite Dames who had the stuff to save us all? 

Long list?

I rest my case, but I did enjoy typing it.

Go see the massively entertaining, beautifully portrayed and decorated “Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day”.  Go ahead and cheer for Nancy Drew-ish Amy if you wish, ’cause I bet she’s really a good kid, at heart.  I’m sure you’ll have a very nice time.

See you, under the Flickering Lights…

Robert M. Katzman

If you enjoy my particular point of view about old and new movies, please tell a friend to tune in.  Thanks. 


Note from the Author:


Robert M. Katzman, owner of Fighting Words Publishing Company, with four different titles currently in print and over 4,000 books sold to date, is seeking more retail outlets for his vivid and non-fiction inspirational books: 


Independent bookstores, Jewish and other religious organizations, Chicago historical societies or groups, English teachers who want a new voice in their class who was a witness to history, book clubs, high schools or museum gift shops.  I will support anyone who supports me by giving readings in the Chicago Metro area.  I have done this over 40 times, and I always sign my books, when asked.  Everyone, positively everyone, asks.  I was amazed, at first, by that.


Individuals who wish to order my books can view the four book covers and see reviews of them at www.FightingWordsPubco.com 


There are links to YouTube and podcasts, as well.  Or, anyone can call me directly at (847) 274-1474.  Googling my name will also produce all kinds of unusual results.  That other Robert M. Katzman, now deceased, whose name will also appear and who also published, was a doctor.  He actually bought one of my books!  Such a nice man.  Rest in peace, Dr. Katzman.


There will be short poems, stories and essays published in this space every two weeks by either myself or my co-blogist Richard G. Munden, or both.  If you find our postings thought provoking, moving or even amusing, please tell others to come view this site.  We will find our strength in your numbers.


 Next year, I will publish my fifth book, a collection of my best poetry and essays, called,


        I Seek the Praise of Ordinary Men


Individuals who know of independent bookstores that might be interested in a rough-hewn guy like me, who ran a chain of newsstands for 20 years in Chicago, please tell them about my books, will you?  I am partial to independent bookstores, having owned two, myself, until my last one was killed by the giant chains, in 1994. I still miss it. 


I’m also looking to find someone who would want to make a play out of some of my stories in the Chicago area, so I could go there and do some readings sometimes.  I think there’s enough honest sex, drugs and rock n’ roll to hold anyone’s interest, as well as a lot of authentic dialogue from ordinary people in extraordinary situations.  I think the plays would work anywhere, frankly, in some intimate theater with talented actors.



1 Comment »

Comment by Bob

September 13, 2008 @ 7:41 am

from the author:

To my surprise, more people have viewed this post than all my other movie reviews, over nearly a year. If fact, it’s my 3rd most viewed post of all I’ve posted in almost two years.

I can only conclude that my gentle suggestion that people make a parlor game out of it,

“So,Who’s REALLY Sexy?”

must have actually been taken seriously by a bunch of my readers. If so, that’s wonderful.

Remember, that “sexy” is in the fingertips of the beholder…

But, don’t even think about that.

Robert M. Katzman

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