‘Mrs. Harris Goes To. Paris’ – Review

Anthony Fabian’s adaptation of the 1952 novel is a delightful watch, led by the charming Lesley Manville.

Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris is a charming historical dramedy film directed by Anthony Fabian, adapted from the 1958 novel, Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico, that tells the story of a recently widowed woman who uses her widow’s pension to travel to Paris and purchase a Dior dress. After charming and befriending many of the House of Dior employees, she finds herself not only achieving her dream of owning a custom Dior dress, but saving the iconic haute couture house from financial ruin. 

This film completely embodies the epitome of charm. While the story is simple, if not maybe a little predictable, the utter loveliness of the entire picture make it an absolute delight of a watch, due in part to the congenial performance of Lesley Manville, who plays the titular role of Ada Harris. Manville emits an aura of simultaneous childlike wonder (particularly in the scenes in which Mrs. Harris watches the Dior show) and mature wisdom that makes her character personable. The film is also well rounded out with a supporting cast, including a magnetic Alba Baptista as Dior model, Natasha, and a charming-as-ever Jason Issacs as Mrs. Harris’ friend back home, Archie. 

Though, of course, the real show stopper of this film is the costuming, done by Academy Award-winning costume designer, Jenny Beavan. Beavan, who won an Oscar last year for Cruella (2021), clearly has a keen eye for the line between cinematic costume and haute couture, and this film provides her the opportunity to showcase such. She brilliantly makes every single costume on screen pop, with obvious care given to the “regular clothes” as much as the Dior gowns. Beavan pays beautiful homage to Parisian fashions of the 1950s, as well as The House of Dior’s most iconic era. It is pretty safe to assume that Beavan will achieve at least her twelfth Academy Award nomination, if not her fourth win, for her work on this film. 

Likewise, Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris arguably deserves Oscar attention for its entire production design. Capturing the beauty and elegance of France, particularly in the dawn of haute couture so gorgeously and captivatingly, this film plays out like a work of art playing in real time. Though it may be cliche to refer to a city in which a film takes place as a character itself, this film makes a strong case for allowing Paris to be an anomaly, as it serves as a safe haven for the grieving Mrs. Harris, welcoming her to a world that once felt so distant, but where she ultimately belongs. 

The entire film is very reminiscent of a “Golden Age” Hollywood film, à la Funny Face (1957) or Gigi (1951), while still remaining modern enough to be relevant to current audiences. The film is by no means perfect nor is it anything particularly groundbreaking, but it offers nothing more than a lighthearted and lovely watch, and for that, it cannot be faulted. Manville’s performance and Beavan’s costumes alone warrant a watch, and fans of the 1952 novel will surely not be disappointed. 

Grade: A-

Oscar Prospects:
Likely: Best Costume Design
Should be Considered: Best Production Design

Where to Watch: VOD

Lex Williams
she/her @alexiswilli_
Lives in NC, where she is on a first name basis with the owners of her favorite pho spot.
Favorite Actress: Angela Bassett
Sign: Capricorn

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