In Mrs Harris Goes to Paris, a movie based on the 1958 novel by Paul Gallico, Ada Harris, a British cleaning lady, manages to scrape together enough money to travel to Paris to buy a dream Dior gown. Despite the initial rebuffs by some at the French fashion house, Ada wins over her detractors and since she has ready cash (something not often seen with their top clients) no one can really deny her the gown of her dreams. Ada’s down to earth logic and sense of humour, as well as her charm and good nature, soon endear her to everyone and she manages to change lives and the future of the House of Dior. The ending of this film is rather a feel-good, happy one, unlike the original book. However, based on what we see in the nasty old world around us, I was more than pleased with this HEA ending. Plus, I wouldn’t mind wearing a Dior gown and dancing with Jason Isaacs…
The cast is superb. The ever-watchable Lesley Manville plays Ada Harris with grace, charm, and flair. She is perfect in the part. You will laugh with her and weep for her. Jason Isaacs plays her friend at the dog races and maybe there’s a spark in the future for them both, especially after he sees her in the Dior dress, “Temptation.” Ellen Thomas plays her best friend and stalwart supporter, Vi Butterfield. Other familiar faces include the beautiful Isabelle Huppert as Claudine Colbert, the Dior manager, who resents Ada. Young lovers who discover each other, the “face of Dior” gorgeous Alba Baptista (as Natasha) and Lucas Bravo, the handsome accountant (Andre), add the romance element one must always find in the city of love. Andre has a penchant for Sartre and discussing existentialism, but he is so good looking that I’m sure any young woman would be pleased to while away a few hours being intellectual in his arms. Rounding out the players are Lambert Wilson (every mature woman’s dream man) as the Marquis de Chassagne, three hilarious tramps that Ada meets at the station, and a bevy of workers at the House of Dior who embody the worker bees behind the scenes that create the glorious dresses. Let’s not forget the inimitable Anna Chancellor as the truly selfish Lady Dant, a comical cameo.
It is just a lovely romantic movie that one can sit back and enjoy. There are social elements such as the class distinctions in both France and England and worker issues, but these are woven in as part of the story and the character interaction, not bashed into the audience in woke haranguing. The plot is quite detailed in the lead-up to Ada actually jetting off to Paris but there’s nothing slow about the story overall. The movie and the characters draw the audience into the plot, and you actually believe in them and want things to go right for the good people and hope the (mildly) bad people get their come-uppance. Fashion makes a big hit in the movie since Oscar-winning costume designer Jenny Beavan worked with the famous fashion house to make couture gowns from scratch. Talking of costumes and sets, no detail was left undone, and the ambiance and period dress were perfect. Sit back and enjoy a relaxing, sweet, and gentle look at yesteryear with great acting and gorgeous costumes and settings. Like me, you will not want it to end!
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