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A late-'30s-era London governess hired to work in the home of a high-profile nightclub chanteuse gets a taste of the good life when she is assigned the task of sorting out the singer's many unseemly affairs in a period comedy starring Frances McDormand and adapted from the novel by Winifred Watson. Unfairly and unceremoniously dismissed from her latest position without so much as a penny of severance pay, Miss Guinevere Pettigrew (McDormand) realizes that in order to stay financially afloat she'll need to find a new job fast. Though she has worn out her welcome at the unemployment office due to her propensity to loose jobs, she's determined to seize the day and keep an open mind. Before she's booted from the office, she takes note of a job opening that is a little outside of her experience, but decides to pursue it, pretending she is the prospective employee the office was planning to recommend. Becoming a "social secretary" may not be exactly what Miss Pettigrew had in mind when the time came to seek out a new job, yet she hopes that her enthusiasm will offset her inexperience and throws caution to the wind.
Upon arriving at the penthouse of up-and-coming American entertainer Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams), the unassuming Miss Pettigrew becomes instantly swept up in the high-society milieu. But serving as social secretary to one of the busiest women in the city is no easy task, and before the day is over, Miss Pettigrew and her new charge will both learn a thing or two about life and love. Now, as Miss Pettigrew helps Delysia make informed career decisions and choose between one of three potential suitors, her own attraction to a handsome clothing designer named Joe (Ciarán Hands) could prove her undoing. Joe's current fiancée, Edythe (Shirley Henderson), is an insolent fashion maven with little patience for those she deems incompetent or unworthy of the spotlight, and she currently has her targets locked onto a certain social secretary who doesn't yet grasp the complex social mechanisms of the high-society lifestyle. Simon Beaufoy and David Magee co-author a screenplay directed by Bharat Nalluri.