From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress:
With so much uncertainty and strife in the news, I am always ready for a feel-good, fairy tale getaway movie to escape to for a few hours. I have several favorites to call upon in my library: The Princess Bride (1987), Ever After (1998), and Pretty Woman (1990). I can now add Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris to the list. This new feature film adaptation of Paul Gallico’s delightful 1958 novel, Mrs. ‘Aaris Goes to Paris, is a Cinderella-esque story of the adventures of a down on her luck charwoman in 1957 London determined to fulfill a dream.
Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris tells a humorously heartwarming tale about a London housecleaner Ada Harris (Lesley Manville) who thinks her lonely life might turn around if she can become the owner of a Christian Dior gown. Saying goodbye to friends like Archie (Jason Isaacs) won’t be easy, and neither will be winning over elite people in Paris from Madame Colbert (Isabelle Huppert) to idealistic accountant André (Lucas Bravo). But Ada’s irrepressible charm just might end up saving the whole House of Dior in this uplifting story of how an ordinary woman becomes an extraordinary inspiration by daring to follow her dreams.
Mrs. Harris (Lesley Manville) falls passionately in love with her employer’s Dior dress, inciting her adventure.
Winning Story Elements
It is no surprise that the novel, Mrs. ‘Aaris Goes to Paris, has been adapted into movies and stage musicals. The story is charming, poignant, and uplifting. I remember being enchanted by the 1992 TV movie version starring the late, great Dame Angela Lansbury in the titulary role. There are so many winning elements from the novel that modern-day screenwriters could embrace and adapt: a hard-working widow with an optimistic outlook and infectious ambition who has a big dream, a large cast of charming secondary characters, and an all-is-lost moment that does not seem solvable. Ada has a fairy godmother-like quality that changes her life and those around her. The driving force of this screenplay is the humor and fairy tale elements of a story that is unlikely to be true, but totally believable. That’s what fairy tales do best—make us believe in the impossible.
Mrs. Harris (Lesley Manville) goes to the dog races in hopes of winning her stake to go to Paris
Lesly Manville as Ada Harris is a delight. I have admired her acting for years and enjoyed many of her performances including as the ignored and childless wife of the lyricist William Gilbert in Topsy-Turvy (1999). I am looking forward to two forthcoming TV productions that she will star in: Magpie Murders on Masterpiece PBS premiering this Sunday, October 16th, and Dangerous Liaisons on Starz on November 6th. She succeeds in the role of Mrs. Harris because she does not play it for sentiment. We never feel sorry for Ada but admire her and cheer her on.
Violet Butterfield (Ellen Thomas) and Archie (Jason Isaacs) as Ada’s London friends
Foibled and Affable Secondary Characters
Other performances of note are Anna Chancellor as the odious Lady Dant, Ada’s toff employer who avoids repeated requests to settle her account but can buy a £500.00 dress from Dior in Paris to wear at her child’s wedding. That would equal a staggering £11,375.00 in 2022 prices or $ 12,702.00 US dollars. However, it is Lady Dant’s dress that Ada admires SO much that it sends her off on her Paris adventure. This gives you some perspective of how much Ada must earn (and gamble) to attain her goal of a Dior gown. There are other outstanding performances as well by Rose Williams as the ditzy actress Pamela Penrose, Jason Isaacs as the affable Archie, and Ellen Thomas as Violet Butterfield, Ada’s warm-hearted friend. In fact, my only disappointment was the casting of the Marquis de Chassagne, the French aristocrat who Ada meets at the Dior salon. He lacked the charisma and dashing charm that one expects from a Parisian gentleman of this era.
Period accurate Dior gowns recreated by Jenny Beavan for the costumes in Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris
Fashion is the Co-Star
Much of the movie is set at the fashion house of Dior in Paris. Costume designer Jenny Beavan must of had the dream job recreating Dior gowns featured in the fashion show, and her own creations for Lady Dant and Mrs. Harris. They were stunning.
Invisible Women Empowerment
My favorite moment is when Ada confronts her flakey employer Lady Dent and proclaims, “The days of treating people like scum and expecting loyalty are over.” Don’t you wish we could tell people off like this in our own lives? More fantasy invisible woman empowerment, please!
A Brief Respite
I highly recommend the delightful, uplifting Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris for a brief respite from the world. It made me laugh and gladdened my heart. And if you are interested in further movie adaptations of author Paul Gallico’s novels, get your hankies ready before viewing The Three Lives of Thomasina (1963), and The Snow Goose (1971).
5 out of 5 Stars
- Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (2022)
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Director: Anthony Fabian
- Screenwriter: Carroll Cartwright, Anthony Fabian, Keith Thompson, & Olivia Hetreed, based on the novel by Paul Gallico
- Cast: Lesley Manville, Isabelle Huppert, Rose Williams, Jason Isaacs, Anna Chancellor
- Length: 1 hour 55 minutes
- Genre: Period Drama, Comedy
We purchased a copy of this movie for our own enjoyment. Austenprose is an Amazon affiliate. Images courtesy of Universal Pictures © 2022; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2022, austenprose.com.