When I first saw the trailer for this movie a few months prior to its release, I was immediately swept up by the premise and its leading lady. It’s about time the venerable Lesley Manville gets the lead role, and Mrs Harris is tailor-made for her.
I had no idea this movie is based on a novel, written by Paul Gallico in 1958 titled Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris. In fact, it’s the first in a series of four books about the adventures of the title character, a widowed cleaning lady in the 50s who falls in love with a couture Dior dress. It’s a Cinderella story of sort, but swap prince charming out with a bewitching dress that’s truly swoon-worthy. Can a dress change your life? This film would argue that it’s certainly possible.
Up until that point, Ada Harris has been living a rather quiet (read: mundane) life as a part time maid. It’s while she was cleaning the home of her client Lady Dant (Anna Chancellor) that she laid eyes on the dress. She excitedly shares her discovery with her best friend Vi (a delightful Ellen Thomas), and she sets her sights on the sparkly frock, which sets her to a Parisian adventure.
I love that the protagonist is a woman who’d be thought of as ‘past her prime’ but she’s got the zest for life of someone a fraction of her age. She still likes to have a good time at a local pub where she has a rather flirty repartee with her friend Archie (the always watchable Jason Isaacs who also deserves more leading roles). Meanwhile, she still hasn’t forgotten about her beloved husband who’s been lost in the war for over a decade.
Once Ada is off to Paris, the movie mixes fairy tale and fish-out-of-water tropes. Writer/director Anthony Fabian, who co-wrote the script imbues the movie with a frothy, fluffy tone, even more amplified by Manville’s bubbly energy. The irony isn’t lost on me that the neat-freak Ada happens to arrive in Paris during a garbage worker strike, so Paris looks unusually filthy with trash piling up in virtually every corner. The House of Dior itself is impeccable however. The art director and production designer did an amazing job recreating the fashion house and recreating the legendary haute couture made by Christian Dior. Three-time Oscar-winner Jenny Beavan who recently won her third award for Cruella, was granted access to the house’s archives by LVMH luxury goods company that owned Dior.
The fashion is crucial in this movie, but no matter how spectacular those frocks are, it never outshines the character. Ada’s kind, warmhearted yet quirky persona still shines and that’s what’s so endearing about her. Her unabashed honesty also help her make friends as well as enemies. Two of her allies are Natasha (Alba Baptista), one of Dior’s main models, and André (Lucas Bravo), the in-house accountant. Dior’s stern director Claudine (stylish and icy Isabelle Huppert) however, isn’t too keen on seeing someone of humble origin attending Dior’s exclusive show even if she’s willing to pay in cash. Instead of a prince charming, Ada meets a charming French Marquis, played by the dapper Lambert Wilson.
I find it quite serendipitous that the last time I saw her on the big screen was in another fashion-tinged drama, Phantom Thread, in which she plays the icy sister of a costume designer, played by Daniel Day-Lewis. The first time I saw her is actually in North & South miniseries where she plays a sickly, downtrodden mother of the protagonist. It’s a testament to her phenomenal versatility that all those characters couldn’t have been more different from each other. This is the first time I saw Baptista and Bravo and both are gorgeous with a pleasant screen presence. Rose Williams breaks out of the corsets of Sandition series to play a ditzy actress, one of Ada’s clients. She’s not on screen very much but her character is pretty important to the plot.
Mrs Harris Goes to Paris may seem frivolous the way people think about fashion. But this feel-good movie has some deeper values about a woman being true to herself and that her kindness has the power to change others’ lives. In a time where superhero movies rule the cineplex, it’s so refreshing to see an ordinary woman being the heroine of her own story. That said, I do welcome the fairy tale aspect, a lovely diversion from life’s humdrum routine. Rael Jones’s beautiful soundtrack sweeps me off my feet and the movie’s ending definitely made me smile.
So did you see Mrs Harris Goes To Paris? Let me know what YOU think!
7 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (2022)”
I’ve heard awesome things about this film as the cast alone has me wanting to see this. Plus, I really hope they get Isabelle Huppert in the MCU as a villain but one that is not a physical threat but just bonkers and hilarious. I smell $$$$$$$ in her doing a MCU film or more. Plus, she’s going to need to fund her art house theaters that her family owns.
The cast is wonderful in this! But nooooo, keep miss Huppert from MCU! I understand she needs to pay her bills but I think Phase 4 hasn’t been as good as I expected… I mean she can just do big-budget non-superhero movies, she classes up everything she’s in.
But she would rock as a villain. She doesn’t have to do any stunts but just be slimy and funny.
Isabelle Huppert is so good! I first saw her in “call my agent” but have seen couple of her movies since then. she IS a good actor.
Yeah, miss Huppert is one of the best actresses in French cinema. I think I first saw her in I Heart Huckabees, which other movies did you watch her in? I should watch more.
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