Dreams are a wonderful thing. But without work, faith, and a little hope, they remain a distant fantasy.
The new film, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, is based on the book, Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris, by Paul Gallico. Set in Britain in the late 1950s, Ada Harris (Lesley Manville) is a middle-aged woman that, for the most part, goes unnoticed. After losing her late husband in World War II, she earns her living cleaning houses. Among her clients are wannabe starlet Pamela Penrose (Rose Williams) and Lady Daunt (Anna Chancellor). Both see her, but neither truly appreciates her.
When the workday is done, she goes to the local pub to have a drink with pals Archie (Jason Isaacs) and Vi (Ellen Thomas). While working at Lady Daunt’s one day, she discovers a Dior gown and falls in love with it. The cost of the gown is obviously well beyond Ada’s meager paycheck.
After scrimping and saving (and with a little luck), she finally has the funds to afford the dress and travel to Paris. She expects to just pick up the dress and return home in a day. That plan derails the moment she enters the building. The first barrier is the directress and gatekeeper Madame Colbert (Isabelle Huppert). The second impediment is the 1% clients who are not happy that they have to compete with a British cleaning lady of all people.
But Ada is not alone. Among her new allies is the company accountant André Fauvel (Lucas Bravo), lead model Natasha (Alba Baptista), and a possible new love interest, the Marquis de Chassagne (Lambert Wilson).
Visually, this film is a feast for the eyes. It is a trip back in time that is half a Cinderella story, and half a narrative about a woman who achieves the impossible on her own terms. Ada is an everywoman who has a pollyannaish perspective that does not go too far into naivete or pie-in-the-sky beliefs. I love that she learns to stand up for herself and believe in herself when many would either look down on her or walk past her without seeing her.
My only complaint is that a good twenty minutes could have been cut and the movie would have been just as good.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.
Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is presently in theaters.