Film Review: Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris
Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris
Director: Anthony Fabian
In Theaters 07.15
In a time when superhero movies abound and the fate of the entire world seems to be at stake in nearly every blockbuster, a story about an unassuming protagonist whose power is simply being a kind and caring person may not seem like enough. As it turns out, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris shows that it’s more than enough—it’s everything.
In Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris, Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread, Let Him Go, Misbehaviour) plays Ada Harris, a widowed cleaning lady living in London in the early 1950s. Mrs. Harris lives a modest life, coping with the loss of her husband, Mr. Harris in the war by putting everyone else’s needs first and by being an emotional support system for everyone around her. When she sees a couture gown designed by Christian Dior, it becomes her dream to own one. By circumstance or, perhaps, providence, Mrs. Harris comes into money, and she decides to do this one thing for herself. Mrs. Harris sets out for Paris, cash in hand, to buy her dress. Along the way she makes new friends, influences people and discovers that the world famous House of Dior may need her spunk more than she needs their gown.
Anthony Fabian (Skin) directs Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris with an old-fashioned elegance, embracing the throwback qualities of this joyful, feel-good comedy. Manville can do no wrong in my book, and she gives perhaps her most endearing performance to date here. Manville brings so much love and humanity to Ada Harris that the character instantly joins the ranks of heartwarming characters such as George Bailey and Forrest Gump, everyday people with everyday lives whose generous spirit changes everyone they come in contact with.
It would be easy, then, for Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris to fall victim to schmaltz and become too earnest for its own good, but Fabian and Manville both have enough vision to keep this latest adaptation of Paul Gallic‘s novel from feeling treacly. Isabelle Huppert is marvelous as the tightly wound Claudine Colbert, the haughty woman who is charged with making sure that the House of Dior lives up to its reputation. Huppert’s character mirrors Manville’s own Oscar nominated performance in Phantom Thread such that their interaction feels rich and fascinating. There are a number of terrific supporting performances from tried-and-true veterans like Jason Isaacs, Anna Chancellor and Lambert Wilson helping to reinforce the stitching on this one. The lesser-known Alba Baptista (Jogo Duplo, Warrior Nun) as Natasha, an up-and-coming fashion model, and Lucas Bravo (Emily in Paris) as André Fauvel, the young accounts manager at Dior, make quite an impression in the film’s requisite romantic subplot. Perhaps the most important player, aside from Manville, is costumer Jenny Beavan (Mad Max: Fury Road, Cruella), whose gorgeous recreations of the classic Dior line are characters in their own right.
Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris isn’t the kind of movie you go to see to have your mind blown with effects or to feel like you’ve witnessed next-level artistic daring. It’s a movie that makes you feel honestly happy, inspired and appreciative. It’s a beautiful fairy tale to share with people you care about and a reminder to hold onto your own custom-made dreams, and, more importantly, to your kindness and humanity. –Patrick Gibbs