I sat down this week and watched Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day which, in its basic form, is a movie about an aging spinster (Frances McDormand) and the one day her employment with a pretty, flitty little thing (Amy Adams) changed both their lives for the better.
The spinster is an aging vicar’s daughter who doesn’t drink or have any sort of fun, except for the occasional movie. The setting is London at the end of the Depression and just prior to WWII. Miss Pettigrew has just been let go from her most recent governess position. She is the “governess of last resort” according to her employment agency. The opening credits are played out to the music of Brother, Can You Spare a Dime and leave our poor, sad spinster frequenting a soup kitchen and spending the night sleeping at the train station.
Miss Pettigrew quickly resorts to trickery to get a job with a up & coming actress surrounded by too many men. Who, in the course of the day “does a fixee” on our Miss Pettigrew and shows her how life should be really lived. I liked the movie, which is currently out on DVD, it’s what we’re being taught here that annoys me.
Miss Pettigrew, our spinster, is too mousy to collect the wages owed her for her last job; she is literally hungry all day surviving on cucumber slices and cocktail olives; she takes no time for herself to look at her situation rationally; and she lost her love in the last war and had no chance to find another. A solid man who, she tells the actress “smiled when he saw me and we could have built a life on that.” To sum it up she is poor, drab, dull and, on her own both unnoticable and a source of derision and pity.
The other main women characters are the actress and an aging career woman, both seeking men to complete them and/or to mentor them.
Of course, it all works out in the end exactly how I expected it too. The pretty young actress finds true love; the bitter, conniving career woman ends up aging and alone and our spinster finds a comfortable man, a man of her own generation, who is enchanted by her lack of worldly/ womenly sense.
I want to yell at the screen that this is not my life. I am not waiting for a man to complete me. I am not a women to be pitied and derided. I am not invisible. We are here, living alone and mostly enjoying life. I am a spinster not looking, at this moment, to be anything else.
Come back next week. I plan to discuss White Palace and how it portrays the single woman/spinster.