Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
One of the most heartwarming & charming little flicks of the year! Lesley Manville is just lovely as the titular character.
Genre: Comedy / Drama
Director: Anthony Fabian
Cast: Lesley Manville, Lucas Bravo, Alba Baptista, Isabelle Huppert, Lambert Wilson, Ellen Thomas, Jason Isaacs, Rose Williams & Philippe Bertin.
Run Time: 115 min.
US Release: 15 July 2022
UK Release: 30 September 2022
German Release: 10 November 2022
I need to be honest, this was not a release I was looking forward to seeing on the big screen, however, my girlfriend had been intrigued by the trailer, so I decided to make a date night out of it. To my surprise, I found myself enjoying Anthony Fabian’s comedic drama quite a bit, especially as its magical atmosphere reminded me of the Paddington movies. It is a “modern” fairy tale, adapted from the novel by Paul Gallico, as well as one of the most heartwarming productions of the year. So, pack your bags and join me in my adventurous review for Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris!
Based on the 1958 publication “Mrs ‘Arris Goes to Paris”, the plot follows the titular character Mrs. Ada Harris, a widowed London charwoman in the late 1950s, who falls madly in love with an haute couture Dior dress. From there on, she decides she must have one of her own, believing that everyone deserves to make at least one of their dreams come real.
As stated several times above, the story is inspired by the first of a four-part book series, starring the London charwoman Mrs. Harris. While I can’t be one hundred per cent sure as to how accurate it is compared to the publication, since I never read it myself, I had a friend of mine give me a short recap after watching it, to get a general idea. Therefore, as far as I can say, the director managed to capture the essence accurately enough.
The narrative is pretty simple and nothing out of the ordinary. What makes it special, is the incredibly wholesome atmosphere, that includes a feel-good attitude. Yes, it isn’t realistic in its portrayal of life; things just simply fall in line for Ada throughout her adventure, yet there also ain’t anything wrong with a little bit of escapism from reality, especially when it is meant to elevate the mood of its audience, which it does so perfectly! The balance between comedy plus drama is well manoeuvred, creating enough sympathy for the lead.
Most surprising is the unconventional manner it tackles the angle of romance, at least for the lead and her best friend. A commendable addition made to the original tale, is the subject of the working class aesthetics at that time, including the upcoming rise of change inside the class system itself. It is a common theme that is also metaphorically woven into the main narrative of Dior’s fashion business.
That said, it wasn’t a perfect film, containing mild but noticeable issues. For one, the pacing is sometimes a little off, overstaying its welcome during the end. This leads to some aspects of the story feeling rushed, such as the romantic subplot of two supporting characters, or an issue inside the house of Dior itself. Then there is the finale, which was partially changed from the book itself, undoing a valuable learning arc for Ada.
The dialogues, on the other hand, are incredibly well constructed, containing a lot of wit, humour, sarcasm, just like remarkable comebacks. The delivery of lines was mostly brilliant, especially from the main actress herself.
Talking about performances, Lesley Manville was perfectly cast in the lead role. She gives Ada Harris a charming likeability like no other, while still holding a little bit of sass. She also manages to balance well between humour and drama. The persona of Mrs. Harris is that of a romantic dreamer, believing that fantasies can come true if one puts effort in it, to reach the heart's desire. She also is too much of a trusting person at times, which leads to emotional setbacks, though it is also that quality, which turns her into an icon.
Alba Baptiste gave life to the role of Dior model Natasha, while Lucas Bravo portrayed the brand’s accountant André Fauvel. Both did fantastically well acting-wise, however, I was left longing for a little more insight into the character’s progression, as it felt rushed. Nonetheless, both did play personas that are among the most relatable.
Isabelle Hupert plays Claudine Colbert, the emotionally distant, as well as old-fashioned director of the brand’s house, giving a stellar performance! Then there is Ellen Thomas, cast as Ada’s best friend and confidante Vi Butterfield. As I was told, Mrs. Butterfiels has only a small role in the book, making this an even grander achievement, as Thomas fleshed out the character in the few scenes she had. Her chemistry with Manville is superb, selling their friendship on screen.
Finally, there is Jason Isaacs in a small supporting role, as a potential love interest for the main character. Appearing like a fool at first, he became more likeable once he showed his caring side. He is a friend one can count on.
The cinematography by Felix Wiedemann is visually pleasing, using techniques such as the dolly zoom effectively, to convey the sparkling, magical feeling experienced by the lead persona when seeing a Dior attire. The elegance of haute couture is well-captured on camera and pleasant to look at, for anyone interested in fashion. The saturated colours of Paris in combination with its dream-like illumination, made it look as if a watercolour painting had come to life.
Visual effects are minimal, usually rendered in the background for scenic purposes. Wardrobe plus costume design look magnificent, suiting the era it plays in. The setting for London, as well as the streets of Paris, are equally beautifully designed.
The soundtrack is the perfect emotional companion to the story, infusing the cinematography with energy. It was at times a little bit too reminiscent of Michael Giacchino’s composition for Pixar’s UP.
Verdict: All in all, this is as perfect a little feel-good flick, as they come! The overall tone is light and fairytale-like, with a carefully embedded message about the working class, which is organically constructed into the main character’s adventure in Paris, as she is trying to buy a gown from Dior. It is not perfect, though, containing pacing issues that lead to side arcs being brushed over and supporting characters less fleshed out. I also wasn’t a fan of the changes made to the ending, as it cheapens the character’s arc. That said, the acting was excellent, with funny line deliveries thanks to solidly written dialogues. Lesley Manville is wonderful as Mrs. Harris, giving the character the right amount of wit and vulnerability. The cinematography is great, beautifully capturing the magic of fashion. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this premise and will give Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris an 8.0 out of 10.
If you haven’t seen it, give it a try! I promise you won’t regret it! For all those who saw it, what did you think? Do you agree with my review? Leave a comment to let me know.