In what could be the most charming film of the year, “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” is simply delightful in every sense of the word. There’s nary a misstep in this adaptation of the 1958 novel by Paul Gallico (the third version to hit the big screen). From the cheerful performances and irresistible screenplay to the solid direction (from Anthony Fabian) and exquisite costume design, this instant mood booster is an easy one to love.
Set in 1950s London, widowed cleaning lady Mrs. Harris (Lesley Manville) falls madly in love with a haute couture Dior dress that hangs, sadly unworn, in the closet of one of her clients. She falls completely head over heels for the stunning designer frock, deciding that she simply must obtain one of her own.
Mrs. Harris tries to boost her savings by trying all sorts of things, from working nonstop for ungrateful clients, barely spending any money on food to eat, and even resorting to gambling at the racetrack. After being careless with her money, all seems lost. But a surprising visitor holds some positive news (and the precise amount of funds she needs to chase her dream). With enough cash in hand, Mrs. Harris embarks on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure to Paris that will change her forever. The world will soon realize that she’ll alter the history of the House of Dior as well.
It’s a story that is exceedingly appealing and well told. The pacing feels brisk and the film is never boring. The cast (including Isabelle Huppert, Rose Williams, Jason Isaacs, Lambert Wilson, Lucas Bravo, and Alba Baptista) delivers terrific performances, and Manville is superb in the lead role. It’s as if she was tailor-made for it (pun intended), and you can’t help but root for Mrs. Harris throughout the ups and downs of her journey (especially when she holds her own against the high society snobs).
Fans of fashion will appreciate the dazzling display of vintage Dior apparel, but don’t fret if you have zero knowledge of the designer world. There’s a wealth of other things to love about the film, not just the gorgeous dresses.
“Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” is exactly the kind of movie the world needs right now. It’s an enchanting film that celebrates beauty and grace, both inside and out.