Thankfully, every now and then, there is that little sleeper hit of a movie that seems to come out of nowhere. Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris fits that description.
To its credit, it exceeded my expectations.
While it is a movie about a struggling widowed housekeeper in London in 1957 who dreams of owning a Christian Dior dress (as described in the synopsis I read), it is about so much more than that.
Like so many modestly-budgeted features made with a ton of heart (the kind of movie you expect from Focus Features), it is about life and optimism and hope. It is charming and romantic, a movie that audiences might be yearning for at this point of our troubled, worrisome lives.
Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is a modern-day Cinderella story. The lowly, struggling housekeeper who dreams of a sparkling gown and the possibility of going to the ball with a handsome prince.
Mrs. Harris dreams the impossible dream. But there seems to be some magic in the air. Her dreams seem to be slowly turning into reality through a string of improbable, fortunate events. Even when an impulsive wager of winning a long-shot bet at the dog track goes awry, there is still a silver lining in the dark cloud of defeat that eventually threads its way into her life.
Ocsar-nominated actress Lesley Manville brings Ada Harris to full life with depth and emotion. She delivered a standout performance in the TV series The Crown as Princess Margaret. Her Betty White looks, charm and charisma are infectious here. We want this fairy tale to have a happy ending. She creates a character who deserves it.
The casting is spot on, across the board, with great supporting roles—Lucas Bravo bringing a Christopher Reeve handsomeness and wholesomeness to the role of Andre Fauvel and Alba Baptista bringing an Audrey Hepburn/Jean Seberg vibe to the role of Dior super-model and blossoming French movie star Natasha. Ellen Thomas and Jason Isaacs bring warmth and sincerity to Mrs. Harris’s best friend and local suitor.
There have been other movies and shows about the fashion industry recently.
We all remember Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci (2021) starring Adam Driver and Lady Gaga as well as the Netflix series about Halston starring Ewan McGregor. Both traced the rise and fall of fashion industry empires that crumbled when exclusive, ultra-rich clientele dried up and haute couture had to scale down to middle class taste and affordability in order to survive.
There is a similar storyline here, but one that is told from a much different perspective-- without hired assassins, excessiveness or substance abuse.
There is no high drama in Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris. Instead, it’s a modern-day fantasy that pushes the boundaries of believability without going over the edge. While Mrs. Harris undeniably leads a remarkably charmed live, it is not a life without crises and heartbreak.
She’s an eternal optimist in an existential world in which the odds are against her, but she manages to navigate through it through sheer good-natured empathy and humanity.
It’s an offbeat love story about a woman in love, only in this case, in love with a dream dress from the epicenter of Paris fashion. Following the classic story arc, girl meets dress, girl falls in love with dress, girl loses dress and eventually girl wins dress in the end. But there are life lessons learned along the way. And the fairy tale ending doesn’t quite pan out as planned.
Despite that, Mrs. Harris takes us on a journey that is entertaining and delightful at every turn. The script, based on the best-selling novel is brilliant.
Look for Oscar nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay as well as Best Actress, Best Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Music and who knows, maybe even Best Picture. Yes, in my estimation, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is that good.
It’s a refreshing return to the kind of heartwarming, foreign-style films that no one seemed capable of making any more.
It’s delightful. It’s entertaining. It’s the kind of film that offers some lighthearted escapism at a time when many of us really. desperately need it.
Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is in theaters now.