Mrs. Harris Moves to Paris
Imagine lovingly looking into the window of a French patisserie and seeing a rainbow of sweets, like chocolatey éclairs, fluffy macarons, and shiny religieuses. “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris,” which was written and directed by Anthony Fabian, is as close as you can get to that sweet-tooth feeling without the calories. The 1958 novel “Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris” by Paul Gallico was turned into a movie by Carroll Cartwright, Keith Thompson, Olivia Hetreed, and Fabian. It’s a sweet and heartwarming story about a simple housekeeper’s dream to go to Paris and buy a Christian Dior dress.
It helps that the main character, Ada, a war widow living in London who works as a humble housekeeper, is played by Lesley Manville, who is always beautiful and never gives up on a role. It’s hard not to think of her character from “Phantom Thread” here, since both movies are about fashion in the 1950s. But friendly Mrs. Harris couldn’t be more different from House of Woodcock head Cyril, who walks with click-clacking heels and doesn’t take any nonsense. On the contrary, Ada is as kind as a person can be because she is always helping others. And Manville wins over the audience so quickly that you don’t even wonder for a second why a hard-working cleaning lady with limited money would spend all of it on a useless luxury like a designer gown. After all, this is a funny fairy tale, and who’s to say that Mrs. Harris’ dream, which she gets when she sees a Dior dress owned by one of her wealthy clients for the first time, isn’t as valid as anyone else’s romantic goals?
“Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” really gets why a beautiful dress or a well-put-together outfit from head to toe can make a person feel like they can take on the world. Even though Ada has a small budget, she never looks less than polished or even a little fancy. Her daytime clothes are full of pretty prints and hopeful florals. So you can’t help but support Mrs. Harris’s goal, especially after she saves up enough money with a little help from her friends and strangers that she always wins over. And after a series of lucky bets and odd activities like dog races, Ava ends up at the legendary House of Dior, which is said to be on Avenue Montaigne.
The script doesn’t spend a lot of time on how things work and if they make sense. Don’t ask how a Pollyanna-like civilian who doesn’t really look like the haughty Dior type casually walks into the designer house and before you know it, mixes with the label’s head Claudine Colbert (Isabelle Huppert, giving Cyril Woodcock a run for his money), the brand’s handsome accountant André (Lucas Bravo), and top model Natasha Poly (Alba Baptista). Still, that is exactly what happens when the handsome suitor Marquis de Chassagne (Lambert Wilson) openly supports Mrs. Harris and asks her to join him on the upcoming fashion show for the label.
This main display of dresses from the New Look era, including a version of the famous Bar Suit, is the main reason to see “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris,” and Jenny Beavan, who won an Oscar for her work on the costumes, does a great job. And how could Ada not fall in love with every piece of clothing she sees, especially the emerald-green Venus dress and her favourite, the crimson-red, tea-length Temptation dress that shimmers? But when Claudine, who at first seems bad but grows on you, says that Temptation is only going to a client who has bought from Dior before, Ada settles for Venus, which the house’s miracle cutters can make in a couple of weeks.
During this time, Ada moves in with the kind André and uses her skills as a matchmaker to help André and the smart Natasha fall in love. She also starts a new routine in Paris, where she once again wins the love and trust of everyone she meets. In any other setting, the film’s ending, which is so outlandishly silly and neatly wrapped that even Cinderella would be jealous, would just make people roll their eyes. But in Fabian’s world, which is like a fairy tale, it seems right and even deserved. The world isn’t the happiest place to be right now, so why not cheer for a good character in a pretty dress?
In theatres right now.