Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (2022) Review
“IT’S NOT SEWING,
IT’S MAKING MOONLIGHT”
The harsh façade of reality can be felt upon everyone, regardless of sex, gender, nationality, or social status in society. The mundane, the tiresome, and the complexed moments that we all face that are always heaped upon an individual on a daily basis can really wear an individual down. Thus, after a long of day of dealing with reality, it’s always nice to sit back and watch a movie, especially ones that are considered “feel-good” movies. These particular type of endeavors not only charm and evoke viewers, but also allows them to subdue / forget their problems, with a larger focus on characters, story, drama, and quirky moments that usually come together for warm feeling by the time the credits begin to role. Typically, “feel-good” movies don’t display high octane action, unexpected plot twists, or disturbing moments, but rather convey emotions and passions within their respective cinematic context; something that resonates with a viewer with a sense of hopefulness and peace of mind long after the film has concluded. Such prime example of a “feel-good” projects, including 1994’s Forrest Gump, 2003’s Finding Nemo, 2006’s The Pursuit of Happyness, 2009’s Up, 2009’s The Blind Slide, 2014’s The One-Hundred Foot Journey, and 2015’s Eddie the Eagle just to name a few. Now, Focus Features and director Anthony Fabian present the latest film in this special niche category with the release of the movie Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris. Does this feature find warmth and passion in this tale or is it just a bland endeavor that had little to no magic?
The year is 1957 and Ada Harris (Lesley Manville) is a woman of the working class in London, England. As a WWII widow who is still working through grieving over the loss of her husband, Mrs. Harris fills her days as a house cleaner for a variety of needy employers as goes through the motions of life, finding comfort in longtime friend Vi Butterfield (Ellen Thomas) and a close relationship with Archie (Jason Issacs). Ada trust in the power of luck and believes as a sign of good fortune, finding one when she spots a Dior dress belonging to one of her clients, Lady Dant (Anna Chancellor), which inspires the middle-aged women to dream of a visiting Dior headquarters in Paris for one of herself. Working to save up enough money to travel and for the dress, Mrs. Harris begins to understand the value to others, making her way to France and having her eyes opened to the graceful and glamour of what Paris has to offer. Intending to purchase a dress from the House of Dior, Mrs. Harris brash demeanor draws upset dire from the fashion house’s manger, Claudine Colbert (Isabelle Huppert) and delights Dior’s forwarding-thinking employer, Andre Fauvel (Lucas Bravo), working her way into a week-long private fitting that keeps her in town. While her on her extended stay in Paris, Mrs. Harris finds friendship in Natasha (Alba Baptista), a Dior model, and comfort in local widower Marquis de Chassagne (Lamber Wilson) as the British woman challenges French stuffy behavior and business practices, learning more about herself and those she comes across.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Like what I said in my paragraph above, who doesn’t like a good old-fashioned “feel good movie”. Naturally, everyone has particular movie genre to watch to “lift their spirits” up, be it casual one, a leisure one, or one that finds comfort in something purely silly. A “feel-good” movie can be all of those things, yet still (at least to me) manages to convey something that is more intangible by projecting a sense of warmth and inspirational. The uplifting notion of that classic “happy ending” is something that usually occurs during these movies or (at the very least) is able to translate a palpable sense of reassurances in positivity that can tug at the heartstrings of a viewer. This particular sensation of escapism of comfort is indeed a memorable with loads of feature films out there that can project the same type of energy and sincerity from opening title crawl to closing credits. Naturally, there have been many (and I do mean many) of these types of movies throughout the decades, so there is no “official” list of which “feel-good” movie is indeed better than one. Of course, some fan-favorite ones are definitely ones like Forrest Gump, The Pursuit of Happyness, and Finding Nemo, are usually mentioned by many out there, including myself. Yet, I would also like to watch movies like The One-Hundred Foot Journey, Me Before You, and Eddie the Eagle (as well as few other ones), especially since they give a good sense of warmth and feelings towards these characters, which carries over long after the movie has ended. Heck, even gives a sense of inspiration, with several meanings in the film being extrapolated into my personal life. In the end, while reality can be hard for all, there is no better feeling of finding escapism and positive reinforcement than that of getting lost within a “feel-good” movie to lift one’s spirt up.
Naturally, this brings me back to talking Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, a 2022 comedy-drama film and the latest movie that invokes the same positive feeling and comfort of that of a “feel-good” endeavor. As I’ve mentioned in several of my other review posts previously, I did work in a bookstore for quite some years and I do believe remember coming across a book by this name, who was written by author Paul Gallico. I didn’t think much of it, but I always did recall the name of the book, with its rhyming scheme title stuck in my head. Flash forward to late spring / early summer 2022 and I saw a movie trailer during the ”coming attractions” preview at my local theater that had the same name and stated that it was the book of the same name. The trailer itself looked pretty good as a very “feel good” vibe when I saw it, including a very simplistic story about a hard-working middle-aged woman wanting to get a Dior dress and light adventure she goes on in order to get it. Yes, it seem like very straightforward movie with little to no mystery surrounding it, yet I was quite interested to see where the movie and the story it was going to tell. Plus, I did like how the film’s main character (assuming it was Mrs. Harris) was going to be portrayed by actress Lesley Manville, who I loved in Phantom Thread as well as her commanding (almost fiendishly) role in Let Him Go. Suffice to say, that I was curious to see Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris when it was set to be theatrically released on July 15th, 2022. Unfortunately, due to my work schedule being quite heavy during the summertime, I wasn’t able to see the film during its theatrical run as well as my local movie theaters only showing the movie during a more limited runtime (making way for more prominent features). Thus, I did have to wait until Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris came out on VOD (video on demand) to finally watch it, but, while I was playing “catch up” with some other movie reviews, I had to push back of completing my review done for this feature. Now, after some time of getting those said reviews pushed out, I’m finally ready to share my personal thoughts on the movie. And what did I think of it? Well, I actually really liked it. Despite a few setup problems here and there, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is a charming and wholeheartedly delightful “feel good” that shines with its endearing tale, amazing costume presentation, and by Manville’s solid performance. There are a few problems with the film, but the positives definitely outweigh those minor criticisms and makes for a terrific lighthearted movie about following one’s dreams and passion.
As a sidenote, I wanted to state that my review for Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is going to be solely on the film itself and not much on the novel by Paul Gallico, for I did not read the book, so I can’t really compare “apples to apples”. Thus, I can’t say what was changed, added, or omitted from the two or even the other film adaptations that have come out before. So…without further ado……
Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is directed by Anthony Fabian, whose previous directorial works includes such films as Skin and Louder than Words. With a background in mostly in shorts films (i.e. Freeze-Frame, Prick, and Jean) and only two feature length films under his belt, Fabian makes the most of his time in this particular movie, with the project acting as his third outing in motion pictures as well as his most ambitious endeavor to date. In that regard, I think that Fabian does quite an exceptional job in his directorial handling of Mrs. Harris. Considering the main plotline thread of the narrative, which tells the tale of a middle-aged / working class woman looking to buy a dress from Dior, Mrs. Harris doesn’t exactly scream for a high-stakes theatrical motion picture endeavor, with Fabian keeping everything low-stakes….in a good way. That’s not to say that there is opposition or missed opportunities for conflict, setbacks, and triumphs to be had in the movie, with Fabian approaching the material with a sense of sincerity and honesty in sort of “downtrodden” nuances as we (as the viewers) are introduced to Ada Harris, a woman who is “down on her luck” and trying to get by in life and in her job as a cleaner. Thus, the “fairy tale-esque” style journey that Ada Harris goes through while venturing to Paris becomes quite the endearing factor, with Fabian playing up those nuances quite well in how he shapes the major bulk of the feature in that notion.
As stated, I know that there were previous film adaptations of Gallico’s novel, but what makes Fabian’s representation of the literary source material the absolute best is found in the character examination of all its key players, especially the ones found in the film’s chief character (Mrs. Harris) and how she encounter a wide variety of people from different social statues play / change in her life. It’s the attention to detail of which makes this 2022 endeavor appealing right from the get-go, with Fabian utilizing the film’s cast to their upmost affect whenever on-screen (more on that below) as well as the film’ script, which was adapted / penned by Fabian (pulling “double duty” on the project) as well as Carroll Cartwright, Keith Thompson, and Olivia Hetreed. Of course, the story’s themes are also quite appealing right from the get-go and adhere to the sweetness and quaint movie that follows, especially in those that talk about generosity, optimism, and the passion to dream. It’s sweet and sincerity story that unfolds in a very charming way (I’ll probably use that word quite a lot in my review, so please pardon that multiple usage of it), with Fabian and his team depicting a very whimsical tale that has plenty to say and plenty show throughout the movie’s runtime, which clock in at around 115 minutes (one hour and fifty-five minutes).
Additionally, I’m not much of a person that is caught up and / or well-versed on the iconic fashion house of eras (only by name / reputation). So, I was curious as to what was actually Dior (or rather the House of Dior) and the sequences that depict the famed fashion house (albeit some implied to fictionalized) are quite interesting to behold. The outfits, the dresses, the company’s industry, the brand, and so on and so forth. So, it was kind of fascinating that we (as the viewer) get to see the concept layout (and mindset) of what the House of Dior was all about and merely more than just a fashion company that sells dresses.
Plus, as a whole, Fabian keeps the feature on a very even keel level and doesn’t really undersell nor oversell the “feel good” premise of the feature. In fact, Fabian settles into a rather cinematic tranquil groove very nicely and never goes beyond those particular gentle barriers. Of course, there is some opposition and society tolerance lessons to be learned from the “haves” and “have nots” of which the movie’s tale depicts, yet it’s done in a manner that careful not to feel abrasive or quite harsh. In addition, the movie itself refrains from going beyond the PG style rating, which is kind of a good thing, with Fabian never showcasing scenes of sexual content or crass language and just simply make a movie that features a woman on a mission to get a Dior dress. With some many other endeavors out there that are bolstered by extravagant storytelling of complexity, controversial subject matters, or explosive blockbuster flair, it’s nice that one simply (and easy) check out Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris with the intention of being charmed for a pleasure and a piece of “comfort watching” viewing experience. All in all, while there are a few minor blemishes, Fabian does a fantastic job in bringing this particular tale to life, with Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris providing a palpable yet light hearted narrative that definitely gives that warm, cozy feeling from onset to conclusion….and that’s always a good thing.
For its presentation, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is both a charming and stunning endeavor, with its visual background aesthetics and nuances coming alive throughout the entire feature. The movie did utilized the various London and Paris locations for the film (as seeing some of background shots), with the project also shooting in Budapest. This, of course, shows the “fairy tale” European setting, with such vibrancy of being both realistic in the real world (circa late 1950s) as well as a fanciful jaunt through some whimsical place in and around the famed “City of Lights”. From exterior places to interior rooms, the production and overall presentation for the movie is top-notch and really helps sell both the setting and the time period quite well, with the credits of the film’s “behind the scenes” team, including Luciana Arrighi (production design), Istvan Margit and Nora Talmaier (set decorations), and the entire art direction team for their efforts in bringing Gallico’s novel to life through their usage of setting cinematic nuances. Who actually shines the best in this particular category is costume designer Jenny Beavan, whose previous work includes Gosford Park, Mad Max: Fury Road, and (most recently) in Cruella. Why do I bring such importance attention towards Beavan’s work on Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris? Because Beavan’s costume designs for the movie are absolutely amazing. I’m not one who knows about designer clothes and mainstays of fashion (as mentioned above), but the designs look and costume attires for all the characters are solid across the board, especially the ones that featured from the Dior line. Those pieces are amazingly exquisite and cinematic beautifully by capturing fashion house’s signature style of glamours dresses and styles that are magical. Thus, the work by Beavan in the movie should be highly commended and hope that she gets nominated for Best Costumes once again at the upcoming award season for her efforts in Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris.
Behind her, the cinematography work by Felix Wiedemann is also spot on throughout the movie and helps capture those beautiful, whimsical moments of capturing the beauty of city landscape scenes as well as those imagery of the various Dior gowns. Lastly, the film’s score, which was composed by Rael Jones delivers a lovely and touching musical composition that definitely harmonies and compliments the lighthearted tones and dramatic feelings that the feature has to offer. In addition to this, the movie utilizes a few musical songs throughout the endeavor, which help build upon the film’s time setting description. All in all, the overall presentation for the movie is terrific and creates a fantastic background character from start to finish.
Despite my liking of this movie, there were few minor points of criticisms that I had with Mrs. Harris that, while not ruining the film’s likeability, do distract a bit and hold the feature back from being that much more palpable in its cinematic endeavor. What do I mean? Well, for starters, the film’s first act is quite long and boring, which creates several pacing issues along the way. Of course, Fabian takes this portion of the movie by setting up the trials and tribulations that the character of Ada Harris goes through and gets the ball rolling in setting up the main plot. This is naturally in storytelling, but Fabian drags this particular ball a bit longer than intended, with a very elongated first act of where not really much happens. This goes on for at least 40 minutes into the film before the events start to pick up. Thus, despite his intention to add more character development / plight to Ada’s predicament and her mission objective in the feature, the first act of Mrs. Harris is quite slow and sluggish and easily trimmed down (or rearranged slightly) for a more refined and tighter introduction opening act set piece. The same can be partly said for the final stretch of the film, with the pacing (once again) coming to sluggish part. It’s not complete dealbreaker, but still lacks the tightness of which the movie needed to be.
In addition, there is a lot to be said in amongst the various plot points that the movie’s narrative tries to tackle. Of course, the feature’s main focus remains fully on Ada Harris’s mission to get a dress from the House of Dior, yet there is a lot to be said around that central thread that the movie can’t quite fully developed. What do I mean? Well, there is subplot involving the workers in Paris are on strike (littering the streets with trash / rubbish), there is another on how Dior’s management (or rather mismanagement) needs to be restructure in a better way, and then there is another one that involves life of a model of Dior and the role that they play in society and represent the fashion house itself. All of these facets are quite interesting, yet the movie only glosses over these narrative nuances, which makes their plot point in the movie a bit hollow. Again, I do understand that the feature’s focus should be placed heavily on Mrs. Harris herself and not so much on other details, but these particular elements do play a part in the main story and could’ve been integrated and / or expanded upon to make for a more well-rounded story…..sort of filling out the edges of the Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris tale.
What certainly help look over the points of criticism is in the movie’s cast, which is solid across the board with the selected acting talent involved on this project bring their own gravitas, thespian proses, and character role nuances to make their respective performances both impact and memorable throughout. Perhaps the best performance in the movie (and headlines the feature) would definitely have to be actress Lesley Manville, who plays the film’s central protagonist character of Ada Harris. Known for her roles in Phantom Thread, Let Him Go, and The Crown, Manville has certainly made a name for herself throughout her career and has developed some memorable characters throughout her past works. Thus, there is no doubt about it that her performance as Ada Harris in this movie will join that collective roster of well-deserved / well-recognized character roles in her career. Manville approaches the character with a sense of “honest-to-goodness” vibe in Mrs. Harris, with the actress imbuing her role with eternal optimism as a hard-working, yet lovingly woman. It’s because of that notion that makes the character so damn endearing from onset to conclusion, which makes Ada Harris easily to root for through all her trials and tribulations. As mentioned above, the character of Mrs. Harris is pretty straight-forward, but it is the way how she (through Manville’s performance) interacts with the rest of the characters in the movie that makes her so infectiously delightful to watch. There’s no doubt about it that such performance should be recognized, with Manville definitely carrying the weight of the movie on her shoulder. That’s not to say the rest of the cast don’t provide solid roles (for they do), but I think that Manville did an amazing job in playing the character of Ada Harris and certainly acted as the shining star of the feature.
That’s not to say that everyone else in the movie doesn’t get their own moments to shine. Quite the contrary, in fact. The supporting characters in the movie help bolster Manville’s performance, with her character of Mrs. Harris interacting with them to help solve / resolve some type of problem that befalls them. This includes Ada Harris’s personal friends / relationships with characters of Archie and Violet Butterfield, who are played by actor Jason Issacs (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and The Patriot) and actress Ellen Thomas (Eastenders and Death in Paradise). While both characters sort of “bookend” the feature, both Isaac and Thomas make their iteration of these two characters memorable in their own right and have a closer relationship towards Ada than any others, which makes for some compelling (yet minimal) time together.
When Ada Harris travels to Paris, France, the supporting roster of characters grow, including charming the Marquis de Chassagne, a wealthy yet lonely nobleman, befriending Natasha, a young and beautiful model for the House of Dior, finding a friendship in Andre Fauvel, a forward thinking Dior’s accountant manager, and faces opposition from Claudine Colbert, a personal manager at the House of Dior, who are played by actor Lamber Wilson (Timeline and The Matrix Reloaded), actress Alba Baptista (Warrior Nun and L’enfant), actor Lucas Bravo (Emily in Paris and Ticket to Paradise), and actress Isabelle Huppert (The Piano Teacher and Things to Come). All of these characters get their own small personal story arc in the middle portion of the feature, with Mrs. Harris interacting with them to help solve their problems and plights. This means that the acting talent interactions helps bolster the characters themselves, with these key players delivering some compelling and great supporting performances.
The rest of the cast, including actress Anna Chancellor (The Hitcher’s Guide to the Galaxy and Come Away) as Lady Dant, actor Christian McKay (Rush and Florence Foster Jenkins) as Giles Newcombe, and actress Guilaine Londez (Benedetta and Crossfire) as Madam Avallon, as well as other, including actress Roxane Duran (Riviera and Marie Antoinette) as Marguerite, actor Philippe Bertin (Riviera and We Are Tourists) as Christian Dior, make up the rest of the members of the House of Dior fashion house. Of course, some have large roles than others, but all the respective talents involved certainly give some great performance and help make their involvement in the feature respectful and fun throughout.
Grieving over the loss of her love and mundane existence of her life, working-class woman Ada Harris makes it her mission to head to Paris, France and buy a dress from the House of Dior in the movie Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris. Director Anthony Fabian’s latest film takes the literary source material from Paul Gallico’s novel and translates it into a cinematic tale, one that speaks to its kind-hearted nature and feeling of lighthearted goodness, which is a reflection upon its main character. While the feature does stumble it’s in first acting with a slow pacing as well as few other small narrative nuances, the movie itself delivers a solid and charming presentation, with special thanks to the film’s direction, a wholesome “feel good” premise, a lighthearted endeavor, a fantastic visual representation / presentation, great costume designs, and an all-around great cast, with actress Lesley Manville leading the charge. Personally, I really liked this movie. The story was small (and simplistic) yet the movie itself was comforting to watch and lighthearted enough to tug on my heartstrings and believe in the power of humanity and dreams. Plus, I found the acting and costume designs to be top-notch and fantastic throughout. It’s definitely a “feel good” movie through and through and that I think many viewers out there will enjoy this feature. Thus, my recommendation for this movie is a “highly recommended” one as it delivers some fine moments of endearing storytelling and its delightful characters that take centerstage. In the end, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris represents that not all cinematic endeavors need to have some flashy blockbuster visuals or heavy-handed drama to make a compelling motion picture. Sometimes all that you need in a movie is a hopeful dream, inherent goodness, and good dose of sensible charm to make for appealing “feel good” feature film, which this movie has….in Dior spades!
4.5 Out of 5 (Highly Recommended)
Released On: July 15th, 2022
Reviewed On: December 22nd, 2022
Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is 115 minutes long and is rated PG for suggestive material, lanagague, and smoking