As I’m a married, middle-aged woman and Francophile, a film entitled, “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” is right up my alley!
Synopsis from Focus Features: “MRS. HARRIS GOES TO PARIS is the enchanting tale of a seemingly ordinary British housekeeper whose dream to own a couture Christian Dior gown takes her on an extraordinary adventure to Paris.”
Directed by Anthony Fabian, it stars Lesley Manville, Isabelle Huppert, Jason Isaacs, Ellen Thomas, Lambert Wilson, Alba Baptista, and Lucas Bravo (yes, Gabriel of Emily in Paris)!
It’s the fourth film adaptation of the Paul Gallico novella called, “Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris.”
When I saw the trailer, I thought, “please don’t tell me it’s going to be just about a dress!”
Now that I’ve seen the film, I know I was mistaken! It’s more than a quest for a dress. The dress is merely what motivates Mrs. Harris. Her quest sets off a sequence of events that leads her to see her amour propre, or self-worth.
The story also touches on themes, like friendship, class relations, and keeping up appearances. It also challenges the notions that “nice guys finish last” or that “clothes make the man.”
An example of class relations tension includes the time Mrs. Harris and her best friend, Vi, express how they feel invisible as housekeepers. Another time is when workers go on strike against the garbage company. Then there’s the clash at the House of Dior. As the gatekeeper, Claudine Colbert lets in only individuals of great wealth and high social status. Upon seeing Mrs. Harris, Madame Colbert calls her ordinary and orders that she be escorted out.
As the film progresses, we see that keeping up appearances proves too difficult to continue when financial troubles at the fashion house are revealed and when we learn Madame Colbert’s backstory.
It’s widely believed that if you’re too nice, people will take advantage of you. In Mrs. Harris’ case, it was different. She was kind to everyone she met. It was heartwarming to see that she received kindness in return.
L’habit ne fait pas le moine
With or without the dress (or frock as she calls it), other characters could see that Mrs. Harris had that “je ne sais quoi” all along and that she was not invisible at all.
Some details that I found interesting or unexpected include the times Mrs. Harris was greeted with a kiss on one cheek. (But I thought the two-cheek kiss, or “la bise” was customary in France?)
I also didn’t expect to see the sign for “Le Bourget Paris” airport in giant block letters on street level. The story is set in 1957 and the block letter style of signage at tourist sites seems to have popped up only in recent years in this age of Instagram. (Could it be just a superimposed CGI effect with the name of the airport to let viewers know that Mrs. Harris had arrived in Paris?)
Which brings me to another head-scratcher: Why did Mrs. Harris take a flight? In the 1950s, wasn’t it more common to take a trip by ferry and train between London and Paris?
Finally, I could’ve sworn I heard elements of the song, “De temps en temps” in instrumental interludes (such as, Mrs. Harris; Tour of Paris; and The Legion Dance) by the film’s music composer, Rael Jones. (The Hornez/Misraki tune is not credited on the soundtrack, so maybe it’s just my ears!)
(ICYMI: In November 2021, I featured “De temps en temps” performed by Joséphine Baker as a Music Monday song. Read more)
Follow your dream
Overall, “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” is a feel-good movie that leaves you thinking about your own dreams. As Mrs. Harris said, “We need our dreams now more than ever.”
At this point, you may be asking, “So, does Mrs. Harris get a Dior dress or what?” Well, you’ll have to see the film to find out! In the end, does it even matter?👗
Go see “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” today! 🍿