Book your cinematic flight and see Lesley Manville in a sweet blend of drama and comedy
“Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” is a trip worth taking.
The movie has characters you love to love and characters you love to hate. But most of all, it has Lesley Manville, a talented actress who does a lot with every facial expression, gesture and line of dialogue. The best acting is reacting, and Ms. Manville’s reactions are priceless in a film that will make you laugh and maybe cry because “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” is all about dreams.
It’s the 1950s, and Mrs. Harris (Ms. Manville) is a London cleaning woman who lost her husband in World War II and is trying to figure out the next chapter of her life.
Deciding to pursue a dream, she manages to put together enough money to take a trip to Paris and buy a Christian Dior dress.
As she watches the models walk in the latest dresses in the distinguished fashion house, Mrs. Harris is a cleaning woman suddenly in high society.
She’s definitely a fish out of water, but she knows how to swim. For one thing, she has enough cash on her to buy a dress. (The typically rich customers of Christian Dior don’t carry cash.)
For another, she’s charming, kind, funny and bold, and the Christian Dior crew loves that someone from the working class has dared to enter this world of entitlement.
At the House of Dior, Mrs. Harris becomes friends with Natasha (Alba Baptista), a beautiful model who’s also smart and is familiar with literature and philosophy. It’s clear Natasha should get together with Andre Fauvet (Lucas Bravo) at the House of Dior, and you can count on Mrs. Harris to play matchmaker.
In fact, Mrs. Harris unapologetically gets involved with everyone’s lives — and they’re better off for it.
At the same time, Mrs. Harris might have a chance for romance herself with the dashing Marquis de Chassagne (Lambert Wilson). Who knows?
Meanwhile, back in merry old London, Mrs. Harris has her own social circle, including her friend Archie (“Star Trek: Discovery” actor Jason Isaacs) and her best friend Vi Butterfield (Ellen Thomas), a force of nature who encourages Mrs. Harris to pursue her dreams.
The characters are vivid and as colorful as a dramatic French painting, but the best thing about “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” is its heart. The characters genuinely care about each other, even when Mrs. Harris finds herself up against Claudine Colbert (the talented Isabelle Huppert), the House of Dior manager who doesn’t like the idea of anything changing.
But the House of Dior must change to survive in the latter half of the 20th century, and it takes someone with Mrs. Harris’ spunk to make the House of Dior realize that. At the same time, Mrs. Harris cares about Claudine’s place in a world that, like it or not, is changing.
The temptation with a film like this is to go constantly over the top, but “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” avoids that, largely because of Ms. Manville’s acting. The actress, who’s also one of the film’s executive producers, knows when to pull back and let the spotlight shine on other characters, but when it’s her turn in her spotlight, she’s a tour de force in both subtle and dramatic ways. You can’t help but love her.
Based on a novel, “Mrs. Harris Goes to A Paris” is a great story, and director Anthony Fabian made sure the film complemented the great acting. It was filmed in Budapest for exteriors that best depict London and Paris after the end of World War II. And there were some exteriors shot in the real London and Paris as well.
By the way, you may have seen a TV version of this story. The last TV movie from 1992, “Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris” (the spelling matched the novel’s name), starred Angela Lansbury of “Murder, She Wrote” fame as Mrs. Harris.