“A tramp masquerading as some sort of social secretary.”

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day  (2008)

I got here via “If I Didn’t Care” on Spotify. It was one of the few 1930s songs on a “Jazz from 1930-1950s” station (lots of Nina Simone who, though wonderful, was born in the thirties).

This movie is like a play. I could have sworn it was adapted from a play, the way there seem to be three major sets that people move in and out of; the way there seem to be three main acts; the way Lee Pace seems to be thoroughly enjoying himself. But it was never a play. Just a book and a film.

But Frances McDormand is wonderful and just won another Oscar. “As a vicar’s daughter, I found her rather difficult.” True story: we have a beer named Tipsy Vicar, and I’d say about 35% of Americans pronounce it VI-car. It’s vicker.

Edythe Dubarry, Moaning Myrtle, on making over Mrs. Pettigrew: “Hang it all, the bone structure’s there. Why the devil not?”

These cucumbers slices, and a few martini olives, are all she has to eat that day.

Lee Pace tried to steal a diamond from the Tower of London. “Thirty days bread and water.”

I love how charmed and delighted Mrs. Pettigrew is when Michael arrives on the scene:

“He is…”



The Birth of Venus recreation: “You are beautiful, Delysia.”

Tipsy Mrs. Pettigrew! “Now, Phillip, how are your deliberations over Pile on the Pepper proceeding?”

“They don’t remember the last one.”

Finally, London rain.

“You have lost a man who loves you for who you are, not for who you pretend to be…I am an expert on the lack of love.”

And a London cabbie.

“This is all I own, Guinevere. And two dozen pair of shoes. For all the fancy apartments and fashion shows, do you know how close I am to having nothing?”

Change of program: “If I Didn’t Care.”

Ah, and the very London early morning walk home from the bar, when it’s completely light at 5 a.m.

Is Delysia pausing because she’s too sad to say goodbye, or is it because she’s just realized she can’t pay Mrs. Pettigrew?

“We learn to always keep smiling, even when we’re out of Bloody Mary mix.”

In the next installation of rewatching movies that are themed to the piece I’m editing, we had a book about a stewardess in the 1930s. I present to you View from the Top, also known as the Gwyneth Paltrow flight attendant movie. Crucially, this one also features Christina Applegate.

The year was 2003. I was still in college, but I had TRAVELED, man. I was worldly.  And I still dig this movie. Check out the cast:

Right away, we see John Francis Daley, the kid from Freaks and Geeks, as Gwynnie’s stepbrother, Rodney. He has like one line. Her high school sweetheart is Marc Blucas, post-Buffy (we know how I feel about Riley). He breaks up with Gwynnie in a birthday card, which is almost as good as a post-it (“Well, they don’t make breaking-up cards.”)

Presciently, Gwynnie is working in the Big Lots luggage department. “I’ve actually never been on an airplane, but, if I ever get to go on one, this thing is gonna follow me around like my own little dog.” She quits her job when Riley dumps her (“You’re a small-town girl. You belong here.”) and is sitting in a bar when fate calls to her from the TV.

Sally Weston (Candace Bergen!) is from west Texas, billed as “the world’s most famous flight attendant,” and author of My Life in the Sky. “Sally Weston represents an ideal of poise and beauty and accomplishment that every flight attendant should strive to achieve.” I still think about Sally’s nostalgia whenever I walk through an airport: “It was different then. People dressed for flights.”

Sally provides Gwynnie with her mantra: Paris. First Class. International. “It’s the only route to happiness.

Along the way, we meet Kelly Preston, who once worked for Pan Am but can’t pass an interview for Royalty: “That’s the way the cookie crumbles.” Rob Lowe, ex machina, as Co-pilot Steve: “You’re going places…I’m a pilot, it’s my job to know where people are going.” He doesn’t show up again in the movie, but makes quite an impression...

Gwynnie gets her own trainee attendent by the name of Christine (Christina Applegate!), and the three girls enjoy tanning at the houseboat on Lake Havasu (location of the original London BridgeI have pictures from a trip I took there around the time this movie came out). Here they meet Ted of lake patrol, a terribly tan Mark Ruffalo.

The classism becomes overt when some fancy flight attendants have to make a pit stop at Laughlin, Sierra Airlines’ hub. They flash Gucci and Vuitton, namedrop Chanel and Vuitton, and debate whether the guy in Rome or the guy in London bought the jewelry. Then they swan off, complaining of needing a flea dip, leaving our heroine to her Toblerone (which I always thought was super classythe Vuitton of the candy aisle, if you will).

They take a road trip to San Francisco, which I still think of every time I hear “Living on a Prayer,” and meet the legendary John Whitney (Mike Meyers!): “There’s no business like strabismus.” Donna and Christine get invited to the training center, which I thought was in San Francisco but must actually be in Dallas, since that’s where Sally Weston’s Rancho Esmerelda home is located. We meet fellow trainee Stacey Dash, and get some excellent grammar jokes from Mike Meyers: “An easy road comma don’t expect one” and “You put the wrong emph-ah-sis on the wrong syll-ah-ble.”

Shit happens, and Gwynnie gets assigned to Royalty Express, based in Cleveland, which is where Mark Ruffalo has returned to attend law school. She’s comparing High Style vs. Cheap & Basic outfits in a magazine when he approaches her at a coffee shop. Yay! They decide “Cleveland is like this great big giant waiting room” (gate would be more appropriate?) and fall in love while they’re killing time.

Christine stops through Cleveland (“I’m going for a more classic look. It goes better with Chanel.”) and turns out to be horrible. Gwynnie gets to retake her test, which Mike Meyers does not find fair: “So, you’ll be happy to know you got a perfect score. First time in seven years. The last time was me.” But he tells her to go do the damn thing, to do it for those of us who can’t. 

Gwynnie sheds her never-believable white trash skin and emerges a swan in a green and blue uniform…and the shoes! Christine attacks her on the plane (“Someone had to put you in your place.”) You’d think it’d be funnier to watch Gwyneth Paltrow get beat up, but the funniest part is Applegate flipping the bird as security hauls her away. Gwynnie goes on to lead a fabulous but lonely life in New York, when she’s not jetting around the globe. She sits alone in Paris in the same outfit from the magazine, though it’s unclear whether it’s High Style or Cheap & Basic.

Just when I thought we were out of cast members to get excited about, there’s Sex and the City‘s face girl Nina Katz (Nadia Dajani) as Paige. Speaking of pages (meh), Sally finds Gwynnie all-aloney in the Royalty lounge on Christmas Day in Paris and tells her: “Donna, I don’t think you read carefully enough.” You need a co-pilot, girl!

I had completely forgotten how this movie ended, and while I do regret the aviators I distinctly remember wearing around this time, the twist gives Rob Lowe’s appearance more gravitas and reminds us that we can dream of flying even higher.

Oh, I read a lot of things. I mean, you never know where the big idea is going to come from, you know?

img_7362Working Girl (1988) is the consummate career girl movie, and though there are no working mothers in the film, I’ve included it because it can’t be escaped. And I’m a fan. I cracked up when a character referenced it during a panic attack on Greek (but only just now realized it’s because she and Sigourney Weaver’s character have the same name—Katherine Parker), loved when it came out in Bertie’s impression of an American accent during the tripping episode of Love, and I’m looking forward to the Cyndi Lauper–scored musical. It might be my favorite Harrison Ford role (yep) and ditto for Melanie Griffith.


“I want to relax in my cushy, little corner office with my feetsies hanging over my desk while I try to convince myself I’m this generation’s Melanie Griffith, despite my clear resemblance to Sigourney Weaver due to our—extreme stature and height.”

The film opens with the ferry to Manhattan, and it must be inspiring for the commuters who actually get to see the skyline every day on their way to work. Griffith plays Tess McGill (great name), a Staten Island girl in the secretary pool on Wall Street. She wears sneakers on her way into the office, with polka-dot tights and heels in her handbag. She bounces around a bit—turns out, Kevin Spacey is a sexual predator—who knew? (Also, I held a door for Oliver Platt at SXSW 2014.) She gets splashed by a rain puddle, a la Carrie Bradshaw. But she also attended night school for a business degree. “Look, I’m thirty years old. It took me five years of night school but I got my degree and I got it with honors. I know I could do a job,” she tells Olympia Dukaki.

Tess is thrilled to go to work for a woman transferring down from Boston (Sigourney Weaver, in one of my least favorite of her roles, though that’s more about the character than her performance). Classy, educated, and connected, Catherine is everything Tess is not…and two weeks younger. Her office window is visible from Tess’s commute. She quotes style advice from CoCo Chanel. “I consider us a team, and as such, we have a uniform: simple, elegant, impeccable. ‘Dress shabbily, they notice the dress. Dress impeccably, they notice the woman.… You might wanna rethink the jewelry.”

Tess’s contribution to the team includes suggesting the little Chinese dumplings she read about in W (“You read W?”), which is great until Tess gets to push the steam tray around. She admires how smoothly Katherine brushes off a guy: “Never burn bridges. Today’s junior prick, tomorrow’s senior partner.” Tess pitches her acquisition idea on Katherine’s birthday, evidenced by the balloons and flowers covering her office. Katherine asks Tess if she overheard the idea somewhere, say, on the elevator. Katherine smokes in her office, probably the carton of Larks Tess brought in earlier. The entrée program Tess has been applying for appears to be something industry wide, or Tess has been moved to a different position within the same company… Are those the same elevator banks? Is Olympia Dukakis representing a temp agency or human resources?

Tess tells Mick (Alec Baldwin, hilarious) that Katherine wants to be her mentor and raises the possibility of a double date in the city. Katherine, who went to Wellesley and speaks fluent German, has indicated she’s “receptive to an offer” of marriage. “Watch me, Tess. Learn from me.” After Katherine breaks her leg on a ski trip, Tess becomes more like a personal assistant. (The passcode to Katherine’s parents’ town house is 7543200, BTW, and they may have a Warho.) As she’s using Katherine’s voice memos to practice elocution, she learns Katherine has stolen her idea. Tess drinks a Coors Light tallboy on the ferry home, then catches Mick in bed with someone else. (“No class.”)

img_7303The idea is a loophole that protects a media company from buyout, and to my mind, it’s a good one: smart business, knowledgeable about policy, not afraid to mix high and low culture, and it keeps everybody happy. A lot of my appreciation for this movie hinges on how perfect Tess’s idea is for her character. Catherine writing that “there’s a lightbulb over my head” is the perfect way to present her treachery…that’s just bad writing. If someone emailed you that today, you’d cringe too, and I think we see that in Jack Traynor’s resistance of Catherine’s advances (he sure as hell banged her, though).

Tess stares pensively at her old life out Katherine’s office windowbefore making the call to Jack Trainer. His Who’s Who in American Business profile reveals he has degrees from Dartmouth and Harvard, making him the exact type of person with whom Sleazoid told her she couldn’t compete. It also says, and I never realized this, that he was married from 1972 to 1978 to one Susanna Rockwell. He’s also forty.

Since “fringe times are crucial,” Tess raids Katherine’s closet (the dress still has a $6,000 price tag on it, but “It’s simple, elegant. It makes a statement. It says to people: ‘confident, a risk taker. Not afraid to be noticed.’ Then, you hit ’em with your smarts.” She and best friend Joan Cusack also raid the medicine cabinet (“Valium. In the convenient economy size.”) Tess goes out and meets Trainer, though she doesn’t know he’s him, and he compliments her on actually being dressed like a woman. We get the “bod for sin” line, but she also greets his toast, “Power to the people,” with her own, “the little people,” under her breath. Her creepy boss sees her across the room, someone else hems her in at the coat check, and she makes this irresistible play for Trainer’s affections:


By the way, I used this exact move on my boyfriend at a party a few weeks ago, and it worked! He took me home. (Granted, we live together.)

Cyn gets to be Tess’s secretary for a bit, and Joan Cusack has a lot of fun: “Let’s give her a shout, shall we? You decent? A Mr. Jack Trainer to see you, Ms. McGill. Hold all calls, Ms. McGill? Can I get you anything, Mr. Trainer? Coffee, tea, me?” He’s enjoying it. Tess confronts him for lying about his identity (“All mergers and acquisitions. No lust and tequila.”) I also forgot, he buys her a briefcase!

img_7358For me, this is peak Harrison Ford because you get the Indie capableness without the Han Solo swagger. He takes a spit bath in his office with the blinds open and gets a round of applause from the secretarial pool. He looks stunned with tzatziki on his lip and opens the door to the Chinese food delivery guy wrapped in a blanket. Yes, he stumbles as a hero when blindsided by Catherine’s outburst in the meeting, but even he joins Tess in exacerbation at Catherine’s damsel in distress act.


Catherine, who has to be picked up at the helipad. Catherine, who took a muscle relaxer for the flight (“Oh, let’s all have one, shall we?”). Catherine, who’s had weeks to come up with an explanation for the memo. Catherine, who says Jack loves Shalimar. Catherine, who actually mimics the ticking of her biological clock, panting, “Let’s merge.” Catherine, who behaves likes every disingenuous spoiled bitch I’ve ever known, to whom I only wish it had occurred to me to say: “Do not ever speak to me again like we don’t know what really happened, you got me?”

img_7346When Jack finally comes through for Tess in the end, he gives her the floor. Yes, he has to contend with his johnson, as Trask jokes at ground level, just to help her get her foot in the door, but as Tess tells Trask a few minutes later when they reach the top level, there is no way for someone like her to play the game without bending the rules a little. While Mick proposed at someone else’s engagement party, while the girl he cheated with looked on, and screamed, “Who the fuck died and made you Grace Kelly, huh?” when he didn’t get the answer he wanted, Jack tells Trask: “Hear the lady out, sir. Here’s another elevator.”

It took me many viewings of this movie and going through a point in my life when I was reading a lot of business self-help before I finally noticed that it all leads up to an actual elevator pitch. Tess is so honest and committed, knowing she’s only got Trask for a moment while everyone else is stuck in a different elevator car, so you just can’t help but root for her. Even though she acted like a certifiable maniac to get in that position.

Seriously, isolate her behavior and it looks positively criminal: identity theft, fraud, trespassing, substance abuse, illegal occupation, and wedding crashing (while wearing white, WTF?). Jack was party to that last one, though she only told him on the way there; he wound up enjoying the game. (“You wanna do it? Do it.“), and that’s kind of how we know he’s going to (eventually) be understanding about the rest.

I think that’s what gets me the most about this movie. Having a Harrison Ford, a partner in crime, who comes through for you instead of being a coward and allowing the Catherine types to revel in your heartfelt mistakes. (“But you’re lying!”) I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, how we don’t get rewarded for being genuine in a system that’s stacked against us, even though the movies told us we would. Only certain people are allowed to be genuine.

And yet…


“Spider-Man kicked me, and She-Ra took Maggie’s snack.”

One Fine Day (1996)

Never a favorite, but it’s got peak Caesar-hair Clooney and Michelle Pfeiffer, that white gold.

Natalie Merchant singing a slow version of “One Fine Day.” I had convinced myself it was Norah Jones, although this movie was before her era of domination.

Opening Hitchcock-esque shot: A man playing piano. A golden retriever waiting at the door! An old couple together. Michelle Pfeifer paying bills with envelopes and a checkbook!

But here’s the thing: Mae Whitman is Maggie.

Clooney is on the side of a bus! Daily News advertisement: “You don’t know Jack.” But Carrie Bradshaw knows good sex*

*(and isn’t afraid to ask). Wait! SATC started in ’98. I couldn’t help but wonder: Did they callback to One Fine Day for the opening credits?

Kids go to Montessori and the school bus actually passes both parent-child sets before they all meet up at the pier.

“You know, I have a day.” Michelle, giving some excellent bitch. “Derived? You must be a writer.” But just look at her!


A Hilary Clinton joke! “A real superwoman: can’t open her door, won’t shut her mouth.” “Excuse me? Are you talking about me?” “The first lady. We’re thinking about doing a piece on her.” Sigh. I wish this were more relevant.

The kids miss the field trip. My mom used to let me skip mine. I never visited the state capitol until I did so willingly as an adult.

HOLLAND FUCKING TAYLOR is Michelle Pfeiffer’s mom!!! I’d totally forgotten this. She plays a mean Ann Richards. I love her. And I want a spring spa day.

“Maggie, when you grow up and are incredibly beautiful and intelligent and possess a certain sweetness that’s…that’s like a distant promise to the brave, to the worthy, could you please not beat to a pulp every miserable bastard that comes your way simply because you can? Could you not do that?” I kinda love this.

Remember Amanda Peet?

Jack’s editor has a cat in his desk drawer! “This is Lois Lane. She lives here in the news room.” Annndd…she eats the fish. I never noticed that.

A lot of split screens in this film.

“You know you’re not the only with a day. I’ve got a day too.” Clooney, trying and failing to bring the bitch.

Drinks at 21! That and the voyeurism of the opening and closing sequences is a callback to Rear Window.

Spanish-speaking maid giving Clooney some issues. Just use Denzel’s trick from Inside Man—yell in the street until someone who speaks that language helps you.

I want a spring spa day!

“But you’re not a control freak?” “No, I’m a single working mother.” Oh, right…I was supposed to be looking out for that.

Serendipity-esque Serendipity frozen hot chocolate…for which Michelle Pfeiffer does not pay the bill.

And you have a cat now.

“You know nothing about politics. You know nothing about journalism. You and your little friend in the outfit…”

“Say it for your kind.” Gross, Clooney. You lost me.

“First of all, I thrust my column in your face because I thought you were the most beautiful woman that I have ever seen in my entire life and…I…I wanted to make a good impression.” Dammit, he got me back.

I want a travel hot brush.

“Lois Lane ate the class fish.”

“It’s so obvious, Daddy.” And he’s fishing in the pet store fish tank barehanded, like a bear…

More Michelle!

Velociraptor! Rawwwrrrr!

“I’m right on top of that, Rose!”

First in my “movies inspired by the book I’m editing” series. The manuscript was about a working mother, trying to balance it all, so I made a list

Here we have the cult classic Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead from 1991. This is my origin story when it comes to cinematic working women. I have a memory of watching this in the theatre with my cousin while our grandmother watched JFK, but there seems to be a six-month gap between the release dates. I would have been eight or nine. I can still see how annoyed she was with us when our movie ended first and we went to find her during one of her movie’s most crucial scenes.

First thing, I’m cracking up at Mom’s line, “Because I’ve had a very rough thirty-seven years, and I need a break,” which is spoken by Concetta Tomei (no relation), who was forty-six at the time the film was released. (I, by the way, am thirty-five and do not have one kid, let alone five). The freedom with which seventeen-year-old Sue Ellen smokes in front of her mom is also pretty funny.

And here’s Kenny, Keith Coogan, Brad from 1987’s Adventures in Babysitting, probably my favorite instance of stunt casting ever, and one I only figured out about six years ago. I never realized he gets the only “fuck” in this PG-13 movie, when his brand new potted pot plant falls off the window ledge.

The only mention of bio-dad: “What about Dad? What about blackmailing Dad?

When Mom calls, Swell tells her Mrs. Sturak has a date with a mortician, which is true.

Swell’s fashion sense: Stevie Nicks meets…Blossom?

Pausing on her resume, I noticed Swell not only made herself a Vassar gal, but she gave herself an MA from the Fashion Institute of New York…and later, when Rose glances over it, there’s a Vogue summer internship. Bell Jar reference? Some of that “glamorous fashion stuff. Her address is 201 Bent Rd and her phone number is (213) 353-8361.

The close-up of Applegate’s bushy eyebrows!

Really bad dubbing of “Liza?!?” in the drag queen car-theft scene. Apparently, the original line was “Shit!”

Ah, Bryan, you sweet, sweet nerd: “It really cracked Mr. Egg when you left.”

And never forget, the fax machine burps at her.

Cathy, who loves QED reports, is already known from Twin Peaks at this point and will also feature as the voice of Fifi the feather duster in that year’s Beauty and the Beast. Her Twin Peaks co-star, David Duchovny, is simultaneously playing the crossdressing agent Dennis/Denise Bryson at the time of filming.

The cucumber joke…my best friend and I used to argue about the implied innuendo there. I said there was one; she said there wasn’t. She was always considered the experienced one.

Kenny’s Julia Child-inspired cooking rampage reminds me of my boyfriend.

Carolyn is telling her brother to call the girlfriend, then changes her tune midstride to tell him just to forget about her.

That Kenny was with-it enough to tell the hospital Walter was Sue Ellen’s son is impressive.

“They’re all just a bunch of old whores,” Rose says about the fashion buyers.

Setting up what I’d been waiting for this whole rewatch: “Life’s Rich Tapestry” from Modern English. When I first started grooving to this song on Spotify, I couldn’t place it to a scene, so I thought it must have been the closing credits, but it drops in as Rose and Sue Ellen are talking and really picks up when Kenny and his stoner bro are sitting on the bridge across the pool. It’s all the happy ending stuff, which makes me very glad. It fades out as Swell approaches Bryan, and that’s so “I Only Have Eyes for You” (their first-kiss song) can pick up again.  And I still think “Swell, what are you doing New Year’s Eve?” is a sweetly romantic line, if a little nerdy.

One of the funeral home workers is also named Brian. Odd. When I was a kid, I didn’t get the joke, and I thought he was Walter all grown up (they have the same hair).

Editorial Inspiration

At the release party for the second Ready Player One trailer (the film is premiering at South by Southwest right now, but I went to a release party for the trailer, and not even the first trailer), I learned that Ernest Cline writes to film scores. I thought that was a great idea, considering I can’t listen to music with words whenever I’m writing or editing.

One of the next assignments I got, I brainstormed a couple of films, then got what free songs I could on a Spotify playlist. Not all of them were instrumental, but I enjoyed the experiment of pairing an editing assignment to a background soundtrack. I even found a few good songs in the process.

This next week will be posts of movies I got to rewatch in the process.