Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris stars Lesley Manville as an English cleaning lady who journeys to Paris in order to buy a Christian Dior dress. Of course, the dress itself ends up taking on much more significance for her personally and for the film metaphorically.
Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is a delightful film, buoyed by a charismatic central performance by Manville. In the supporting cast, Isabelle Huppert plays a gruff executive at the House of Dior, and I fear that this film doesn’t take full advantage of Huppert’s talents; her French film work in Elle and The Piano Teacher shows her to be a magnetic and complex actress. The rest of the cast is affable, and their characters are nice to be around.
The film’s flaws are in its story execution. The exposition and second act are too long, hammering home ideas that discerning audiences have already understood. It isn’t until the end when Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris’s class criticisms become more direct and poignant. Whereas last year’s haute couture fashion drama House of Gucci basically boiled down to “rich people are weird,” Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris focuses on the lower class and how having money doesn’t just lead to a better life; it leads to visibility and an essential sense of “somebody-ness.”
Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris also features some brilliant costume design by Jenny Beavan, who should not be forgotten when awards season comes around.
While it’s not a strong recommendation because of the story stumbles, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is a solid delight.
Three out of five stars.