Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (PG, 116mins) Directed by Anthony Fabian ****½
“It’s going to be my lucky day today.”
London housekeeper Ada Harris (Lesley Manville) has always tried to look on the bright side, no matter what life has thrown at her.
The war may have ended 12 years ago, but she still holds out hope that her beloved Eddie will walk through the door one day. It’s a belief that worries her best friend, Vi (Ellen Thomas). For some time now, she’s been kindly encouraging Ada to open the box the army sent her, so she can move on.
Finally, her persuasion pays off, its contents surprising no one – a few personal items and a note that they were recovered from a crash site near Warsaw in early March 1944. And, to Vi’s relief, Ada takes the news. “He would have had me if he could – somehow,” she consoles herself, before adding, “That’s it, then – free and free.”
The star didn’t just return to the big screen in Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, she also joined the Netflix series as Princess Margaret.
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It is while working in one of the houses of her usual clientele that Ada discovers a new passion – and inspiration: a Dior dress, of which Lady Dant (Anna Chancellor) says “nothing else matters” when she wears it. put on.
Enchanted and smitten, Ada decides she’d like to have one for herself, but she’ll have to save, save and take extra shifts if she ever has to raise the more than £500 needed to bring one home from the designer based in Paris. .
An unexpected £150 football pools win is a welcome boost, but a moment of excessive exuberance at the dog track (spying on a greyhound named Haute Couture, she places a £100 bet, despite having been warned that he is “a bag of bones who couldn’t win a game of marbles”) threatens to take her back to square one.
However, just as despair turns to anger at her own folly, this sudden change in fortune she’s always talked about happens in the most unexpected way. Soon, she finds herself on a plane bound for the French capital, armed with a roll of banknotes that she intends to exchange for a Dior creation. As she says, “It’s not couture, it’s moonlight. »
It’s a journey, however, that won’t go as planned, will take a little longer than expected, and will leave her and others irrevocably changed.
The first big-screen adaptation of Paul Gallico’s beloved 1958 novel (the first of four to feature Mrs. ‘Arris), it’s a warm, witty delight that will please the crowd from start to finish. end. Filled with spectacular costumes, gorgeous production design, charming characters, and storytelling that will take you on a roller coaster of emotions, director Anthony Fabian (Sam Neill and Sophie Okonedo in 2008, star of Skin) gets especially the right tone, reflecting half of Ada Harris. a full approach to life, but without shying away from the setbacks and prejudices it has to endure.
Following in the footsteps of Gracie Fields and Angela Lansbury, who played the character in TV versions of the story in 1958 and 1992 respectively, Manville is a revelation, especially after her recent “harder” turns like Sherwood, Save Me Too, Phantom Thread and Let Him Go.
Known by her clients as the soul of discretion (“No one would ever know she’s been without the polish on my buttons,” Christian McKay’s playboy Giles Newcombe cheekily recounts his latest muse), her Ada is a fiercely determined woman, whether it’s achieving a goal or standing up for her rights – or those of others. Manville conveys the joy and pain in Ada’s life with equal aplomb, the emotional, hilariously heartwarming center of what is indeed a beautifully put together package.
There’s the ever-compelling Isabelle Huppert as Dior’s disapproving manager, Claudine Colbert, Lambert Wilson as the charming Marquis de Chassagne, Jason Isaacs as a mischievous Irish bookmaker, and the delightful duo between Lucas Bravo from Ticket to Paradise and Alba Baptista from Warrior Nun as Dior’s accountant and “face”, each with their own set of challenges to overcome. The latter is a true scene-stealer, a rising star reminiscent of the luminous Audrey Hepburn.
Go for the gorgeous dresses, stay for the evocative storytelling, and walk away with an uplift in your spirit and a spring in your step.
Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris begins screening in theaters nationwide from October 19.