OTP Tuesday: Delysia/Michael

Presenting OTP Tuesday! Each Tuesday I will introduce you to a new One True Pairing! Tune in each week to find out which fictional couple you need to agonize/squee over next. For romantic February I wanted to focus on some of my favorite romantic movies, so this week we’re starting off with Delysia/Michael.

Who Are Delysia/Michael?

Delysia/Michael are the main romantic pairing in Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day, a rom-com from 2008 that deserves more attention. Miss Pettigrew doesn’t really have a fandom, per se, so there’s no ship name for these characters, Delysia Lafosse and Michael Pardue.

Delysia Lafosse

Delysia Lafosse was born Sarah Grubb, “one of the Pittsburgh Grubbs.” Her home life among steelworkers was unglamorous, and Sarah wanted more. So, she moved to England, got a job singing in a cabaret, and rechristened herself the tantalizing Delysia Lafosse, socialite and up-and-coming actress.

As Delysia Lafosse, she soon finds herself in a wild new world. She starts a romantic relationship with the owner of the cabaret, Nick, which leads to her being a “kept woman.” Thanks to Nick’s “generosity,” Delysia has an apartment and an easy life, but she’s unfulfilled. She wants to be an actress and make it big. She sees her shot in Phil Goldman, a very young producer who she seduces for a lead role.

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Delysia’s life is hectic, and her attempts to juggle three men – Nick, Phil, and her best friend Michael, her cabaret partner who previously attempted to propose to her – put her position in peril. But in steps Guinevere Pettigrew, a failed governess who, in need of some employment, masquerades as Delysia’s social secretary. In the course of the film, Delysia must choose what is most important: money, fame, or love. She frequently clashes with the pious Miss Pettigrew, but the two form a close relationship.

Although Miss Pettigrew gives good advice, Delysia is hesitant to give up her dreams. When Phil announces she has the part, Delysia finds herself trapped in a potential marriage to him. Achieving her dreams is a bit of a hollow victory, and Delysia falls back on Miss Pettigrew’s solid advice. She ditches Nick and Phil, and turns to Michael, hoping he will still have her. Luckily, Michael has always loved Delysia more than common sense, and the two head off to New York to rock the cabaret scene together.

Michael Pardue

Michael Pardue is the leading man of Miss Pettigrew, though it’s hard to see that at first since Delysia is juggling three men at the start of the film. But shortly after meeting Michael, the audience can tell that he’s the one. Well, maybe not right after meeting Michael, since the first time we see him he’s being released from prison, and startles Miss Pettigrew into abandoning her possessions when he runs into her on the street.

However, the next time we meet Michael we see a different side to him. After an eventful day shopping with Delysia, Miss Pettigrew comes back to find someone has broken in and is playing piano. She is appalled to discover it’s the prisoner from earlier. But Miss Pettigrew is no match for Michael’s charm, especially when the truth comes out: Michael was in prison because of Delysia. Well, not directly.

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Michael was planning on proposing to Delysia, but she got cold feet and didn’t show. He got drunk and decided to steal from the royal jewels to give Delysia a better diamond. After some time to think (in prison), Michael gives her an ultimatum. He has two tickets to New York, where they can continue playing together. If she marries him, they can live together happily, but he won’t spend the rest of his life on the string.

Delysia is less than impressed by the ultimatum, especially on the cusp of stardom. However, in the end she sees that Michael is the only one who truly loves her. When Nick tries to stop Delysia from leaving, Michael defends her honor, even risking his livelihood as a pianist by punching Nick in the face. The two are then free to leave together, and head off into the sunset.

Why Is Delysia/Michael OTP?

Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day is my all-time favorite movie and I’ve been dying to talk about it, even though it’s not a big fandom type material. The story is light, fun, and thoroughly entertaining, and a large part of that comes from the dynamic between the central couple. Delysia/Michael is not the only story that matters (the relationship between Delysia and Miss Pettigrew is just as delightful, as is Miss Pettigrew’s courtship with a rich fashion designer), but it definitely makes the film for me.

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Part of it is because, to be honest and completely shallow, Amy Adams and Lee Pace are just a treat to watch. But there’s more to this than simple aesthetics. There’s a real relationship here that pulls on your heart strings, even as Delysia refuses to listen to her heart. Watching her realize the most important thing in life – love – makes this film as enjoyable as it is, and it wouldn’t be possible without the Delysia/Michael dynamic.

Backstory Please

The problem with standalone films is that we only have so much time with the characters, and it’s hard to get a full story in two hours (or, in Miss Pettigrew’s case, a sad one and a half hours that is never enough). What is the story behind Delysia/Michael? How did they get to the point we see at the start of the movie? We can only speculate.

There are some hints that we can play with. Delysia says that Michael is the best friend she’s ever had. Is that meant as a “your significant other should be your best friend” sort of thing, or a hint at friends to lovers? I would love to see backstory fleshing that out, how Delysia and Michael moved from friends to something more. This is made more probable by the fact that Michael is the only one to know that Delysia used to be Sarah Grubb. Whether he met her before she became Delysia, or she was comfortable enough to share her past, it’s clear there’s a real trust and affection there.

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We also join Delysia/Michael in media res, so to speak. Although we technically met Michael before even meeting Delysia, by the time we actually meet him, we’ve already met Nick and Phil, so Michael is framed as the third man in this tangled web. Plus, we have to hear about the Delysia/Michael backstory as retrospective, when Michael recaps to Miss Pettigrew just why he ended up in prison.

It drives me crazy that we never learn more about the backstory behind Delysia/Michael (enough that I’ve contemplated writing my own fanfic about it). But the hints we have show that there must have been something really special to bring the two of them together, and I’d love for more.

Peak Romance

The best thing about Delysia/Michael is that, despite the movie being about Delysia’s choice, there is never really a choice to be made. Yes, Delysia has too many options and she struggles to choose. But it’s not because of the men themselves, but rather the opportunities they represent. In breaking it down for Miss Pettigrew, Delysia mentions that Nick gives her financial security and Phil gives her a chance to be a star. As for what Michael gives her? The best friend she’s ever had.

When it comes to her choices, Delysia really only has one man to choose from. She even says as much, admitting that Michael is the one, before saying that she doesn’t necessarily want romance right now instead of advancing her career (which, mood). But she always knows that Michael is the one who loves her, who she loves. He’s her best chance for a romantic happy ending, she just has to decide that that’s enough to go with.

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And honestly, it’s a good choice to make. While Delysia is right – sometimes there are other factors, like wanting to be successful or find fulfillment – Michael Pardue is honestly the dreamiest fucker I’ve ever seen.  Again, part of this is pure, shallow aesthetic appreciation. Lee Pace is honestly the most attractive man on the planet. But Michael is more than just a pretty face; he’s a swoon-worthy leading man.

We see this when he recaps his proposal plan. He tells Miss Pettigrew about how he rented a boat and went onto the Thames with champagne and fresh strawberries. Even the older, more realistic Miss Pettigrew is charmed. And when you think of it, being arrested for trying to get your girlfriend a better diamond is probably the most romantic arrest you could have.

What’s Next For Delysia/Michael?

Again, this is the inherent tragedy of standalone films like most rom-coms. When you’re as deep into fandom as I am, you’re accustomed to sequels or cinematic universes or seasons upon seasons of material to work with. Oftentimes a source material is still in progress (since nothing ends, apparently), so I can speculate on what’s yet to come for a pairing.

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But with a rom-com like Miss Pettigrew, I’m left with no future. Miss Pettigrew ended, and that’s that. While I could easily think of a plot for a sequel, there’s no sign of anything. And despite being an amazing movie, it didn’t receive a whole lot of buzz (I only found it through Lee Pace’s IMDB page, honestly, I never heard of it despite being aware of things in 2008). So I don’t see there being any next for Delysia/Michael, no matter how much I want it.

I cannot even drown my sorrows and my feels in the wonderful world of fanfiction, as Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day has a paltry fifteen fics on AO3. Fifteen. That’s unheard of for most of the fandoms I consider myself a part of. Which may mean that if I want to see what happens next (or work out that intriguing backstory), I’ll just have to do it myself. But, barring that, this is the end of the line for Delysia/Michael. A story that came, stole my heart, and left, never to be seen again (until I rewatch the movie for the nth time).

Is Delysia/Michael Canon?

Yes! That is the good thing about a standalone rom-com. There’s no future, sure, but that also means no dithering, no will-they-won’t-they, no agony for fans to wait through as the showrunners find reason after reason to torture the ship/keep them apart/provide drama. Instead, we have a quick and simple move from not together to together and on their way to a happy ending.

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There’s a little more at work than that in Miss Pettigrew, of course. Even in a rom-com, you can’t have a couple smoothly sail into their happy ending; there has to be some work to get to that point. In this case, the work is for Delysia. She has to decide what the most important thing is, and seek it out. Will she choose love? Or will she choose herself? Will she stick with Nick, or branch out with Phil? Or will she accept love and go with Michael?

The choosing adds a slight tension, but the audience can tell, just as Miss Pettigrew can, that Michael is the one. And while it would be amazing to see a movie where a woman chooses self-fulfillment and professional accomplishments over a man, that’s not what we’re looking for in a period rom-com. Instead, we get exactly what we were hoping for: a dreamy love story where the two are able to come together and be together, and, presumably, be happy together.

Rom-coms aren’t exactly deep. But, damn, if they aren’t fun and Delysia/Michael makes Miss Pettigrew the most fun movie I’ve ever watched.

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