Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Adams lives for today

It's only natural that Amy Adams should want audiences to check out her latest movie, Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day.

But she also wants people to rediscover the forgotten novel which inspired it.

She fell in love with the story and its period setting of London in 1939 on the eve of the Second World War. And she was thrilled by the chance to play a flaky, fun-loving actress and singer named Delysia Lafosse.

There was a further really big inducement in the opportunity to costar with one of her idols -- Frances McDormand -- in the movie opening Friday.

"I've been a huge admirer of hers for the so many years that I wanted to work with her," Adams says by phone from Los Angeles.

There's good reason for her to be sounding as though she's on top of the world right now. After all, 2008 is shaping up as a very good year for the 33-year-old actress who first sprang to public attention in 2005 when she received an Academy Award nomination for her performance in Junebug. This winter, she's had a major hit with Disney's Enchanted, playing a naive fairy-tale princess who's transported from a cartoon world into real-life Manhattan. She was a highly visible presence at last week's Oscar ceremony where she sang one of the nominated songs from Enchanted.

Another film, Sunshine Cleaning, had a successful launching at the recent Sundance Film Festival. And before the year is out she'll be opening in one of 2008's most anticipated releases -- co-starring with Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt, the film version of John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer Prize-winning play about allegations of sexual abuse in a Roman Catholic parish.

She's excited about Doubt, describing the shoot as an "unbelievable" experience. But she's also conscious of her good fortune in having worked with two stellar actresses -- Streep in Doubt and McDormand in Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day -- within a period of less than 12 months.

"It feels really good. I'm so fortunate to have these great women -- not just great actresses but great women -- as mentors in a way."

But she also knows how fortunate she is to be portraying a one-of-a-kind personality like Delysia Lafosse in Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day.

"The character was so delicious and it was such a great opportunity to play something kind of kooky and different. I was passionate about it. I was convinced I was the only one who could play Delysia -- and I really wanted to do it."

In total contrast to Delysia's infectious hedonism is the character portrayed by McDormand in a performance as far removed as she can get from her Oscar-winning work as a pregnant sheriff in Fargo. Here she's an impoverished middle-aged governess named Miss Guinevere Pettigrew, an insecure soul who is so lacking in essential life skills that she can't hold down a job. Reaching the point of total rejection from her employment agency, Miss Pettigrew is driven to an act of desperation: she filches a new job assignment from the agency desk -- an assignment very much outside her comfort level as "social secretary" to Delysia, a self-absorbed actress in a state of perpetual crisis over balancing career and lifestyle against the various panting males who want to marry her.

Theirs is a meeting of opposites -- the timid, unworldly Miss Pettigrew and the giddy, high-flying Delysia. But it's a meeting which catapults this floundering middle-aged "social secretary" into a dizzying world of glamour and romantic intrigue.

Every moment on screen with McDormand was a gem, she says.

"She's wonderful, just wonderful to do a scene with. She's generous and giving. Her commitment to the character and the comedy and the madness that is this story -- it just helped me so much and really gave me permission to do Delysia. Frances is so creative. She had lots of ideas and was so open to my own ideas that we had a really great connection."

The warmth and sparkle of Adams' performance in Enchanted caused many critics to stress her ability to communicate with audiences in a special way. But for Adams, "reaching out" is part of her job as an actor. On the other hand, she says she's not always certain if she is connecting. "I didn't know with Enchanted. It was a very different type of film. I didn't know how audiences would embrace it. I didn't know if they were willing to go on that journey, and I'm so happy that they were and that they enjoyed it. Now I want the same thing to happen with Delysia."

Source: Jamie Portman / The Calgary Herald

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