A Cinderella story at its heart

Frances McDormand, left, and Amy Adams give an endearing performance.

From the title Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, you might assume correctly that the lady in question hasn't really lived before this day arrived.

Set in the 1930s, the film stars Frances McDormand as the frumpy governess Guinevere Pettigrew who is hired as a social secretary by the giddy actress/singer Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams).

Taking her duties seriously, Miss Pettigrew attempts to navigate Delysia's love life, which is complicated by the presence of three men: devoted pianist Michael (Lee Pace), intimidating nightclub owner Nick (Mark Strong), and impressionable junior impressario Phil (Tom Payne).

After a slow, tiring start, the film forges ahead with true British fortitude and class to form an endearing bond between McDormand and Adams, ably backed by a top-notch supporting cast. The elegant production compensates for a predictable story as a self-righteous ascetic and a social-climbing bimbo teach each other how life might be more satisfying lived somewhere in between their respective extremes.

Adapted by director Bharat Nalluri from Winifred Watson's novel, there is nothing surprising in how the transformations of the two women play out in this fairy tale for adults.

Mary Poppins it's not. Yet through the devotion of its performers and the interplay between McDormand and Adams, Miss Pettigrew musters enough life force to justify its charmed existence.

Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day. Stars Frances McDormand and Amy Adams. Rated 15.