With a title that sounds like a Dr. Seuss children’s book, you might think that Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris would be a trite little story. While it is a simple tale (and with the exception of a nightclub scene could make for a decent family-friendly movie) that like Cinderella, involves a girl and a dress. It is sort of a fairytale told in the 1950’s, but in the end, it isn’t about the dress at all.
Based on Paul Gallico’s book, Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris, Ada Harris (Lesley Manville) is a simple British housekeeper with big dreams. She works long days cleaning up the messes from various homes and going above and beyond her employers’ expectations with little to no thanks for a job well done. Still, she smiles, shrugs and keeps a happy spirit. At the end of a long week, she and fellow maid, Vi Butterfield (Ellen Thomas) might go out for a drink and a dance or two with her friend Charlie (Jason Isaacs) at a local pub. She might even play the lottery if she’s feeling lucky, but pretty much, that is it.
While cleaning the home of Lady Dant (Anna Chancellor), Ada is enchanted with a Christian Dior gown she finds in the woman’s bedroom. Lady Dant tells Ada that such a dress can transform how one feels about oneself and from there, Ada is determined to purchase one for herself. And just like a fairytale with amazing circumstances, she finds herself on the steps on the House of Dior in Paris.
This fish out of water tale is truly charming as Mrs. Harris meets different characters and changes their lives. There is Natasha (Alba Baptista) the unhappy fashion model, Andre Fauvel (Lucas Bravo), a business man with big ideas with no one willing to listen and Claudine Colbert (Isabelle Huppert) the supervisor at the House of Dior who won’t give Ada the time of day let alone friendship. She even manages to charm a possible suitor (Lambert Wilson).
There is a lot of truth in this movie. The tagline for the film might be “follow your dream” but the message is more about the power of kindness. There are also messages about learning how to stand up for yourself without tearing other people down. Under Anthony Fabian’s direction, it has the look and feel of a classic film that Hollywood just doesn’t make any more. The music is nostalgic and there is very little, if any, crude language. I will say that one scene (the one is the nightclub) didn’t seem to ring true for me, and Mrs. Harris does tell one character, “You go girl!” but I was able to overlook them. While it won’t be the blockbuster of the summer, it is certainly not one to miss.
Main Image: Focus Features
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