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Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (A Movie Review)

Updated: May 17


Starring Lesley Manville, Isabelle Huppert, Lambert Wilson, Alba Baptista, Lucas Bravo, Ellen Thomas, Rose Williams, Jason Isaacs, Roxane Duran, Christian McKay, Guilaine Londez, Anna Chancellor, Christian McKay, Delroy Atkinson, Jeremy Wheeler, Murányi Panka, Dorottya Ilosvai, Barnabás Réti, Sarah Rickman and Freddie Fox.

Screenplay by Anthony Fabian & Carroll Cartwright & Keith Thompson & Olivia Hetreed.

Directed by Anthony Fabian.

Distributed by Focus Features. 115 minutes. Rated PG.

Simply delightful.

What more is there to say, really?

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is based on a popular 1958 novel by Paul Gallico. (Useless trivia fact, the author also wrote such diverse fare as The Stone Goose and The Poseidon Adventure.) It has been made into a movie a few times before, most notably a 1992 TV movie with Angela Lansbury and Omar Sharif.

It’s a sweetly timeless feel-good narrative, funny, smart, whimsical and just a touch naïve sometimes, but in a nice way.

Lesley Manville plays Mrs. Harris, a no-nonsense London housecleaner who has never quite moved on with her life from when her husband was declared missing in action in World War II about a decade earlier. She’s a hard worker, thrifty, kind, giving, and someone who has never really allowed herself extravagances.

Everything changes when her husband is declared dead after over ten years. She can finally move forward with her life. She has come into a little bit of money, and for the first time ever, Mrs. Harris decides to spoil herself. She fell in love with a dress owned by one of her clients, an original from the House of Dior in Paris. While she is astounded by the price (“You paid 500 quid for that?” she asked her client, dumbfounded) she is infatuated by the beauty and elegance of the dress. She wants to know at least once in her life what it would be like to wear something so perfect.

She starts saving money to travel to Paris and purchase a dress. However, once she gets there, she finds out that having the money is not necessarily enough to get the dress. People look at her and dismiss her out of hand. However, through her charm and her no-nonsense guile, she befriends some people at Dior and gets involved in their lives, and in saving the beloved brand.

Now, just hearing a description of Mrs. Harris hardly does the film justice. Some people could say that it’s a bit twee, or maybe a bit of a chick flick, and that obsessing about a dress could be considered a little shallow. Perhaps all of those things are true in their ways, but it doesn’t matter.

The movie is simply delightful.

That is because the story is not simply the whole story. Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris takes on lots of issues – aging, finding love, finding contentment, class struggles, haute couture, compassion and the lack thereof – and handles them with a sweet optimism.

It’s an underdog story, and who doesn’t love an underdog?

Lesley Manville is a hoot as the title character, a woman who is so disarmingly herself that she makes others shed their own personal phobias. She’s a good woman, who only wants good for herself and others, no matter how often life disappoints her. And she is determined to finally start living life to its fullest, no matter the cost.

A vibrant and funny supporting cast includes Isabelle Huppert, Lambert Wilson, Jason Isaacs and impressive newcomers Alba Baptista and Lucas Bravo.

I recently interviewed Baptista, and she pretty much nailed the reason that a sweet, feel-good film like Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is necessary in a world gone crazy and just climbing out of a COVID funk.

“We just need comfort, don’t we?” Baptista said. “We need to remind ourselves that it's not all dark and hopeless. This movie brings precisely that. It's a film about inner strength and determination and hope, with a lot of beautiful dresses along the way. It's a lovely thing to be able to zone out from your life worries and just feel good.”

On that scale, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is a complete success.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2022 All rights reserved. Posted: July 14, 2022.


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