[Screen It]


(2022) (Lesley Manville, Isabelle Huppert) (PG)

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Drama: A widowed, 1950s era cleaning lady travels from London to Paris to buy a Christian Dior dress.

It's the 1950s and Ada Harris (LESLEY MANVILLE) is a widowed cleaning lady who services several clients in London, much like her good friend Vi Butterfield (ELLEN THOMAS). While dog track employee Archie (JASON ISAACS) is quite sweet on her, Ada's true love is fashion, and when she discovers that one of her rich clients owns a Christian Dior dress, Ada decides she must have one for herself.

So, she saves up her money and with some added luck, she has enough and sets off for Paris. But when she gets to the Dior headquarters, gatekeeper Claudine Colbert (ISABELLE HUPPERT) won't allow her in for a fashion show and sale. That prompts wealthy widower Marquis de Chassagne (LAMBERT WILSON) to escort her in as his guest, and despite Claudine's objections, company money man André Fauvel (LUCAS BRAVO) -- who secretly longs for model Natasha (ALBA BAPTISTA) -- assures her that she'll get a dress.

The only issue is that it will take a week, thus necessitating the help of strangers to accommodate her as she waits. During which they have an impact on her, as she does on both them and their fashion house.

OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10

There are several formative films that shaped my love of movies as a young child, but the one that really blew me away was "The Poseidon Adventure" and its upside-down journey to find an escape from an ocean liner that's been upended by an enormous rogue wave at sea. Released half a century ago, it still holds up quite well, thanks to the original plot by American author Paul Gallico who penned the source novel.

Another of Gallico's works was also about a journey, albeit one not quite so perilous. In his 1958 work, "Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris," his titular protagonist became so enamored with her employer's couture attire that she decided to travel to Paris, visit the House of Dior, and get an evening gown for herself. Now, all these years later and thirty years after a TV movie adaptation played on the small screen, the tale gets the big screen treatment in "Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris."

Delightful and charming any way one looks at it, the nearly two-hour offering is the feel-good flick of the summer, and while the protagonist's quest isn't as agonizing or filled with life and death moments like the aforementioned film, it's just as engaging although in an entirely different way.

Initially taking place in 1950s era London, the story -- directed by Anthony Fabian from a screenplay adaptation he penned with Carroll Cartwright, Keith Thompson, and Olivia Hetreed -- revolves around Ada Harris (a terrific Lesley Manville), a house cleaner who makes ends meet by servicing a variety of clients. Her best friend is Vi (Ellen Thomas) and her unrequited love interest is Archie (Jason Isaacs), but her lust, if you will, is reserved for one of her client's Christian Dior dresses.

Deciding to throw all caution to the wind and assuming that finally getting official word of her husband's passing a decade earlier during WWII is some sort of sign to proceed, she decides to save and scrape together enough money to allow her to travel to Paris and buy a Dior dress for herself. But her unrefined demeanor and appearance rub Dior gatekeeper Claudine Colbert (Isabelle Huppert) the wrong way and thus she's forbidden from entering a fashion show and sale at the HoD headquarters.

What follows is the first instance -- of many -- where strangers help the outsider on her quest. First up is wealthy widower Marquis de Chassagne (Lambert Wilson) who invites Ada in as his guest, model Natasha (Alba Baptista) who befriends her, and then company money man André Fauvel (Lucas Bravo) who assures her that she'll get her dress and even puts her up in his out-of-town sister's room for the week she must wait.

The rest of the tale then follows Ada as she deals with obstacles and setbacks along the trail of her journey, one that most viewers will eagerly tag along for the entertaining and enjoyable ride. Performances are good across the board, as are the tech credits including -- natch -- the bygone era costume design that will have many an audience member salivating over the threads just like the protagonist.

I enjoyed every moment of this offering and now figure I should check out Gallico's other works to see if there's another offering fueled by an equally engaging quest and journey as occurs here and did long ago with "TPA." "Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris" rates as a 7 out of 10.

Posted July 15, 2022

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