Every once in a while, a film comes out of nowhere that is a pleasant surprise or an absolute delight. Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is one of those films. This film wasn’t even on my radar until a few months ago when I saw the trailer, but since then, I have anticipated seeing it. This film lived up to my expectations in the most amazing ways possible.
Ada Harris (Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread) is a widowed housewife who cleaned houses. While cleaning one of her client’s houses, she comes across a haute couture dress from world-renowned fashion designer Christian Dior. Enamored with the dress, Mrs. Harris vows to raise enough money to buy one of her own. Through a confluence of events, she does come up with the money to buy a dress like the one she saw in the closet of the lady she cleaned for. She decides to travel to Paris to have a dress made for herself.
This film is like a Disney fantasy set in real life with characters who seem like that of Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, or even Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. There is a real underdog or fairytale quality to it. The film is adapted from the book Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico, and there are a couple more in the series as well. There was also a previous film that came out back in 1992 starring Angela Lansbury. This new version is very good though, and it’s a film for a new audience.
The film’s second act is a wonderful love story and burgeoning friendship between Mrs. Harris and a rich man. She finds herself embroiled in a struggle with the lady who runs the fashion office of the designer, Claudine Colbert (Isabelle Huppert), and the people who make the dresses. They want to help this downtrodden lady from London. Their boss doesn’t want anything to do with her, but they have more in common than they realize. There is also a beautiful romance involving a model (Alba Baptista) and an accountant (Lucas Bravo). There is a lot of depth and levels to this story and film.
With this film being set in a fashion world, there had to be a level of set production and style, and the costuming had to be on point. This film doesn’t mess around on these aspects. The main plot that revolves around Dior makes this a major part of this film. The dresses are gorgeous to look at, and making them was pretty cool to witness.
Lesley Manville has been acting for a while now. She had a few great performances in films before this one. She even got nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Phantom Thread. This role might be the best of her long career. She plays Mrs. Harris as a down-on-her-luck cleaning lady struggling with the loss of her husband, but then she has an upbeat side to her and offers help and friendship to others. There are multiple levels in her character and performance. Throw in another Oscar nominee in Huppert, and she has a foil on her level to work opposite of. They bring each other up to another level.
Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is a beautiful film to look at, and it has a lot of aspects that make it another win for Focus Features. This studio, along with A24, Searchlight, and Neon, has produced some outstanding original films in the last decade. This film reminded me of a fairy tale that was a real-life Disney film. The character of Mrs. Harris was played brilliantly by Lesley Manville, and the depth and layers she brings to the character are masterful. The story is pretty good as well. The production design, costumes, and set production are all on point in this film. This is a film that people need to see because of the wonderful story and characters within it.
Dan Skip Allen
Sean Boelman Founder/EIC disappointment media