Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (2022) is a fairy tale, a kitchen-sink Cinderella story, in the tradition of those energetic comedies made at Ealing Studio throughout the nineteen-fifties.
Salt of the earth cleaning lady Mrs. Harris, irreplaceable in an unseen kind of way, falls in love with a couture Dior owned by one of her employers, and resolves to get one for herself.
Hard work and good luck conspire to get Mrs. Harris (Lesley Manville) the money she needs. There’s a small reward for handing in a precious ring, added to a lump sum from her backdated widow’s pension, that’s put with the winnings from a sneaky bet. Quicker than you can say, I will go to the ball, she’s clutching a small fortune, as tightly as her dreams of a dress, arriving in Paris just in time to crash the latest Dior show.
If fortune favours the bold, naivety, persistence, and a kind heart favours Mrs. Harris, letting her win over the younger members of house Dior, and wrangling the second best dress of her dreams. Her first is nabbed by the snobby wife of a businessman, who’s petty frock grab is as pouty as her sullen daughter.
As the dress comes to life, so does Mrs. Harris, slowly discovering her joie de vivre for the first time. Part of me wishes it wasn’t a dress bringing her out of her shell, animating her. It feels patronising for her to be defined that way. Which is perhaps why it’s set in the nineteen-fifties? It’s less plausible outside of that frame.
Mrs. Harris is an unapologetically optimistic film, old inspiring young, breathing new life in the old, all spurred on by Mrs. Harris and her indomitable spirit. This optimism comes with a side order of nostalgia, appealing to ideas about our past that just aren’t real, but it is a Cinderella story about a beautiful princess, in a stunning frock, finding her prince.
Truth is, for all of its faults, I was charmed by a warm hearted film.