Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is a breezy delight. It has a charming story and terrific performances to help make it a satisfying movie even for those who might have a cynical attitude toward it.

Based on the 1958 novel Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico, this is the third adaptation of the source material. This one stars Lesley Manville as the title character, Ada Harris, a widowed cleaning lady living in London in 1957.

She becomes obsessed with a Christian Dior dress after seeing that one of her clients has one and she is determined to have one of her own. After a few unsuccessful attempts, one day she comes into possession of a war pension left behind by her husband. This gives her the money she needs to get it.

Mrs. Harris decides to fly to Paris and she accidentally stumbles upon a collection of Dior dresses during a showing. She befriends the Dior accountant Andre (Lucas Bravo) and one of the models, Natasha (Isabelle Huppert).

While in Paris, Mrs. Harris also plays the role of matchmaker between Andre and Natasha after finding out they share a mutual love of philosophy. She also gets involved when Dior workers go on a strike.

One of the movie’s best qualities is how it gives time to the supporting cast. We get Lambert Wilson doing fine work as a suitor for the company; Ellen Thomas as Mrs. Harris’ fellow cleaner who provides some comic relief; and Jason Isaacs as a potential love interest. They all embrace the screenplay with ease.

However, this is mainly a showcase for Manville herself. It’s her performance that sells the movie. She portrays Mrs. Harris as a pleasant, wise woman with plenty of charm and energy to spare. It’s impossible not to be taken in by her luminous presence when she pops up on screen which, thankfully, is quite often. She’s in nearly every scene.

The look of the movie is equally as fantastic. It portrays Paris as a place of love, brimming with activity and plenty of costume designs. Sometimes it plays like a two-hour infomercial for Christian Dior.

At times, the pacing can mildly come to a halt and the ending resolves things a bit too conventionally, but those are minor quibbles.

The story is well-crafted and it’s anchored by fine work from its stellar cast. In a summer dominated by Tom Cruise, dinosaurs and Thor, it’s nice to see a movie hero whose superpowers are wit and charm.

It’s got a certain je ne sais quoi.

Still showing in some theaters and now available to buy or rent on Apple TV.

Grade: B+

(Rated PG for suggestive material, language, and smoking.)

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