Review: Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris

Delightful and Capra-esque, Anthony Fabian’s Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris will delight moviegoers with earnestness and a sweet story, featuring a wonderful lead performance from Lesley Manville.

Manville stars as the titular Ada Harris, a widowed cleaning lady in 1950s London. While cleaning a client’s apartment, she becomes enamored by a haute couture dress by Christian Dior. Determined to get one for herself, she gathers the money and travels to Paris to purchase one of her own.

While in Paris, she runs afoul of Dior’s director Claudine (Isabelle Huppert) while befriending creative director André (Lucas Bravo), model Natasha (Alba Baptista), and wealthy widow Marquis de Chassagne (Lambert Wilson). Determined to shine and stand out for once in her life, nothing will stand in Ada’s way.

Films featuring an earnestly sweet lead who transforms the people around them are nothing new. However, this film doesn’t make Mrs. Harris the pushover who is always kind despite the odds. She often gets down on herself and snaps back against authority. She is never rude, but isn’t proper either. Her sweetness and honesty shine through and attract the people to her light.

This is also a story of class differences and moving on following a tragedy. The main conflict between Claudine and Ada exists solely because Ada is not the right type of clientele Dior wants to have. The fact that Ada has the money is the sole reason she is kept around initially. Ada also yearns to move past her heartache from the death of her husband, but that doesn’t mean finding a new love. It might come organically, but it isn’t something she is actively seeking out. Her moving forward has more to do with her changing the status quo in her own life.

Manville is in nearly every frame and is nothing less than spectacular. She fits the bill as sweet, rambunctious, accepting, and forgiving. If her characterization is dumbed down or made too sweet, the film probably doesn’t work. It’s a fine line that she walks to perfection.

The rest of the cast is equally up to the task. Huppert gets one scene to truly shine, while the rest of the time is mostly just the opposite force to Ada’s goodness. Bravo and Baptista both look pretty and share some gentle chemistry that Ada attempts to fire up further. Jason Isaacs also shows up as a London friend who is always a bright light when he shows up on screen.

Some movies don’t have to reinvent the wheel to work. Sometimes, goodness and sweetness is all you need. Much like the Paddington films, goodness shines through to make for a happy filmgoing experience. Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is the cinematic equivalent of your grandmother giving you a butterscotch and telling you she’s proud. They should make 20 of these a year.

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is now playing in theaters
Score: 4.0/5.0

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