By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Mar 06, 2008 at 5:21 AM

Frances McDormand is talented and can seemingly pull off just about anything on a movie screen. If you needed proof of that, witness "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day," a nod to the classic glitzy showgirl flicks of Hollywood past.

Sporting a convincing English accent, McDormand plays out of work and on the street Guinevere Pettigrew, a middle-aged Londoner who has just been sacked from yet another job as a governess.

When she tricks her way into what she hopes will be a new job, it's nothing like she expects. Pettigrew walks in on American singer and actress Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams from "Catch Me If You Can" and "Enchanted"), who lives in the lavish apartment of her club-owner boyfriend / employer. Upstairs on the casting couch, is the naked son of a West End producer that she hopes can land her a prize role. A third paramour is her musical partner, a pianist fresh out of jail.

The daughter of a clergyman, Pettigrew is a little uncomfortable in this world, but Lafosse is a mess and quickly latches onto this new "social secretary" who seems to have unfailingly great advice for matters of life and love.

But her brief life on the street is not entirely unknown to some of the people in Lafosse's circle and Pettigrew has to tread carefully in this high-flying world of fashion, music and excess. Will anyone in this assortment of characters be able to find anything like real love?

Amazingly, the entire action takes place -- as the title suggests -- in a single day.

Director Bharat Nalluri put his set and costume designers to work recreating plush London at the dawn of World War II and the nightclubs sparkle and the other interiors shimmer with a kind of Technicolor glamour that would have 1950s Hollywood reeling with envy. The film feels like a stage production brought to the silver screen.

Nalluri also sneaks in references to the likes of Sandro Botticelli, too, as Delysia rises from her seashell bathtub and strikes a pose familiar to anyone who loves Renaissance art.

Although there's been some advance buzz that this film is a musical, don't be fooled. While there are a number of scenes where jazz bands play in the background, Delysia only sings once in what is the film's only real musical scene.

If Nalluri took this David Magee and Simon Beaufoy screenplay -- based on the novel by Winifred Watson -- and himself too seriously, "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day" could have been a car crash. Instead, he opted to keep it spirited and light and as a result the film is 90 minutes of period fun.

Is it predictable? Pretty much. Is it sometimes over the top? Absolutely. But "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day" is also a romantic, classic comedy. It doesn't deserve an Oscar, but it's worth an admission. 

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.