MRS HARRIS GOES TO PARIS
THREE STARS A post-war cleaner decides that a Dior dress is just the thing to put a spring in her step.
COMEDY DRAMA UK #MRSHARRIS
Starring Lesley Manville, Isabelle Huppert
Crowd pleasers don’t get much more pleasing than when Mrs Harris goes to Paris. On a whim, a war widow with no dependents decides to give herself the ultimate treat and buy a Dior dress. Nothing off the rack mind you (in fact, in the early 1950s that wasn’t an option, one of the turning points in the narrative as it happens). She wants haute couture and the only place to get it is from Dior itself. She saves, books a flight and before you can say ‘mon dieu’, Mrs Harris is sitting runway adjacent choosing herself the dress of a lifetime.
Of course, it’s not quite that straight forward. There’s the dragon who runs Dior (Isabelle Huppert) who’s not at all happy that such a common woman is mixing with Parisian elite. There’s the elegant Marquis (Christoph Lambert) who succumbs to Mrs Harris’s tell-it-as-it-is style. Likewise the model-with-a-brain whom Mrs Harris fits up with Dior’s equally intelligent accountant then lends him the courage to go on and save the company. This is her wand as it were, an ability to help people become their best selves.
And thus you know where all this is heading. Based on Paul Gallico’s novel, writer/director Antony Fabian (2008’s acclaimed SKIN) amps up the feel-good factor so there’s not a moment when the film’s not actively trying to ensure you’re having a good time. With the always reliable, always compelling Lesley Manville (MISBEHAVIOUR) in the lead, Fabian certainly achieves his goals. In fact, he scores so thoroughly and so consistently that MRS HARRIS GOES TO PARIS starts to feel a bit much, a little like wearing the aforementioned dress while grocery shopping at Woolies. You can, but it’s better if you don’t. Less is more, that sort of thing.
All that said, Fabian’s film has a lot going for it. There’s much to be said for spending time with such pleasant characters and their endearing concerns. If glamorous feel-good comedy-drama is your thing, soppy ending notwithstanding, treat yourself to a dose of Mrs Harris’s irrepressible joie de vivre. You'll be pleased you did.