Lesley Manville Isabelle Huppert Lucas Bravo Ellen Thomas
This is a feel-good movie through and through, although rather pie-in-the sky. I gather the point of the story is that kindness begets kindness from a London dance hall to the House of Dior in Paris…except when it doesn’t.
Mrs. Ada Harris (played superbly by Lesley Manville) is a kindly, sparkly cleaning woman who gets a glimpse of a Dior gown at Lady Dant’s (Chancellor), one of her wealthy employers. Another theme of the drama is about one’s dreams and the importance of following them through to reality. With something more than a mere glimpse of the dress, Mrs. Harris envisions herself wearing it, which brings on dreams of being able to buy such a work of art. She immediately takes on extra work and devises other ways to earn enough to go to Paris to achieve her dream.
This will be no easy challenge, and Mrs. Harris runs into many obstacles as well as the kindness of others to achieve her goal. Just getting her foot in the door of the Dior establishment will be one of her biggest discouragements. Obstacle is personified by the intimidating directress Mrs. Colbert (Huppert), the woman behind the success of Dior himself, along with snobby self-entitled wealthy clients who disdain her being in their midst.
The creators of Mrs. Harris are clearly in sympathy with workers who are exploited by their employers, so that theme is woven into the action as well. With all the varied issues at hand, Director Anthony Fabian with three co-writers (including the author of the novel on which it is based, Paul Gallico) are successful in meshing together all these themes to create an entertaining story. To do this, they have included many coincidental meetings and unlikely stories of generosity, but the uplifting messages can be inspiring, even the part about Sartre and Existentialism.
The two well-known actresses Manville and Huppert are again remarkable in capturing the essences of their characters and sustaining the most entertaining aspects of the drama. Strong support is provided by Lucas Bravo as Dior’s accountant and Ellen Thomas as Ada’s faithful friend back in London.
For a light, sometimes very funny, movie experience, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris will surely entertain those who have even a passing interest in haute couture.
Grade: B By Donna R. Copeland