Mrs Harris Goes to Paris

  • 30 Jul - 05 Aug, 2022
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

Mrs Harris is a warm, hard-working cleaning lady in 1950s London, doggedly going from house to house, quietly tidying up after lives far more exciting and glamorous than hers. But when she sees a Dior dress in one of her regular client’s bedrooms, she falls in love and sets her mind on travelling to Paris to get one herself.

What’s initially refreshing, and that much more involving, is that despite the somewhat fantastical nature of her quest, the script, based on Paul Gallico’s 1958 novel Flowers for Mrs Harris, refuses to make things easy for her. There’s slow progress and a number of setbacks that don’t exactly place the film in the realm of the real but makes her arrival in France feel earned and at least vaguely tethered to some sense of logic. As Mrs Harris finds her way into the world of fashion, she befriends a handsome pair of twentysomethings who she plays cupid for and a potential love interest (Lambert Wilson). But not everyone is quite as charmed and she gets an antagonist in the shape of, but who else, Isabelle Huppert as the snippy director of Dior.

There’s something brilliantly simple about what Mrs Harris wants and how she intends to get it, without the need to turn her or the film into something more unnecessarily complex and overstuffed. She doesn’t want to social climb or to fall in love, she just wants that dress.

Director Anthony Fabian maximises a relatively meagre $13m budget, whisking us back to a modestly yet effectively realised recreation of ‘50s London and Paris, giving his film a cosy glow but with a bittersweet edge that prevents it all from fading into a puff of sugar. It’s an edge that cuts deepest in the last act which places Mrs Harris, and us, back in the real world, returning from a vacation to realise that the cruelty of life remains. Mrs Harris and her journey to Paris might not be one that stays with you for very long – one’s memory of the film might be as fleeting as her trip – but it’s so far the best escape many of us will have had this summer.