Mrs Harris Goes to Paris, 2022.
Directed by Anthony Fabian.
Starring Lesley Manville, Isabelle Huppert, Lucas Bravo, Lambert Wilson, Alba Baptista, Anna Chancellor, Rose Williams, Ellen Thomas, Jason Isaacs, Roxane Duran, Freddie Fox, Christian McKay, Delroy Atkinson, Guilaine Londez, Dorottya Ilosvai, Sarah Rickman, Balázs Csémy, and Philippe Bertin.
A widowed cleaning lady in 1950s London falls madly in love with a couture Dior dress, and decides that she must have one of her own.
In Mrs Harris Goes to Paris, some characters want to be seen, and others find the fashion modeling world awkward. Take the titular Mrs. Harris (an all-smiles, optimistically charming turn from Lesley Manville), an overly kind cleaning lady that wants to use some of the money owed to her (her husband died in World War II) to visit Paris and purchase a Dior dress. She’s not necessarily looking to adorn the beautiful garments (Oscar-winning costume designer Jenny Beavan does yet another tremendous job crafting outfits full of vibrancy, color, and clever designs) for anyone or during a special occasion. It just happens to be something that will make her happy, probably bring back memories of her youth, and function as a healthy coping mechanism after finally facing the reality that her husband is not coming home.
Fortunately, Mrs. Harris also has a wonderful support group of friends (including characters played by Ellen Thomas and Jason Isaacs) that encourage her to chase this dream while helping out with funds wherever they can (there’s an amusing gambling segment encapsulating the British humor and story trajectory one might expect here). However, once she gets to the House of Dior in Paris, the establishment is mostly unwelcoming and built on exclusivity. Isabelle Huppert’s condescending Claudine Colbert assumes there must be some mistake and that there’s no way a lowly cleaner would be able to sit in on one of the auctions.
While that rivalry brews, Mrs. Harris also meets an assortment of characters that are helpful to her, with her imparting wisdom and return. The most interesting of the bunch involves a man crushing on one of the models, a woman that doesn’t find the experience fulfilling and would rather be home reading a book. They bond over philosophical conversations with Mrs. Harris, eventually giving a slight push for them to confess their feelings to one another.
To Mrs. Harris’ surprise, the working conditions at Dior are taxing and nowhere near glamorous, seemingly almost as drab as housekeeper work. The company will not remain financially profitable if the fashion outlet doesn’t become inclusive in sales. That said, Mrs Harris Goes to Paris also sees the protagonists take on an activist role, fighting for a fair working environment and less classism.
Most of these subplots involve likable characters and some fine antagonistic work from Isabelle Huppert, but at times, it feels like too much is going on (director Anthony Fabian adopts the novel from Paul Gallico alongside Carroll Cartwright, Keith Thompson, and Olivia Hetreed). This becomes clear, especially during the last 30 minutes or so, where Mrs Harris Goes to Paris has so much to wrap up, with many of its character endings missing an emotional spark.
Thankfully, the character growth of Mrs. Harris herself is usually compelling; she’s a woman battling classism, labels, and sadness and is sometimes her own worst enemy considering she is often too generous of a person. Throw in some stunning dresses and photography, and there’s absolutely enough reason to go to a theater to watch Mrs. Harris go to Paris.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com