BRUCE R. MILLER
A month ago we saw “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” in theaters. This week it’s on DVD.
This is an extremely short delay, even in the film industry. But it speaks to the voracious appetite for content and the haphazard way producers do business.
The practice says nothing about content, but it does suggest that a movie has to be a huge hit to stick. Something like “Mrs. Harris” has an audience, but theaters might not be the places they’ll find it. That means the DVD (or streaming) market is a more likely place.
Set in the 1950s, the blown-out drama follows a London housekeeper who dreams of owning a Dior original.
When she sees one in a client’s closet, she is struck and tries to figure out how she too can be part of this elite.
Taking on extra work (and meeting more than a little luck), Mrs. Harris (Lesley Manville) gets the money to travel to Paris to fit into a dress. There, she encounters more than a little snobbery (Isabelle Huppert is haughty at her best) and a hint of kindness. Because she’s kind of meddling (you can see why Angela Lansbury of “Murder, She Wrote” played that role in a TV movie), Ms. Harris endears herself to Dior workers, lieutenants and the man himself.
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Leaving Paris without a dress? It seems highly unlikely, no matter how many obstacles the writers put in its way.
A matchmaker of sorts, she also pairs an accountant with a model and, well, you can practically hum “Hello, Dolly!” when the last hem is sewn.
Director Anthony Fabian isn’t afraid to borrow moments from films like “Pretty Woman” as he skims through Paul Gallico’s novel.
It gets a lot of those jaw-dropping sighs from its target audience and provides a coda that makes “Ms. Harris” a go-to for anyone who wants something but doesn’t feel worthy.
As unrealistic as the goal seems, it makes perfect sense in light of the loss – and grief – the woman has felt.
Manville maintains a cheerful disposition, even as others conspire to bring her down. She has a great sounding board in a housekeeper and might find a reason to wear a Dior dress if a bookmaker (well played by Jason Isaacs) puts her at the top of his dance card.
Just when “Mrs. Harris” seems like a “happily ever after” story about a woman and her closet, another wrinkle appears that shows how kindness is rewarded, sometimes multiple times over.
For the audience of the “Gran Torino” who would like this film, it is not to be missed.
If you have someone who matches the demographic, turn it on.
“Mrs. Harris” is as charming as those older movies.
When Ms. Harris gets to see the dresses from the show, gear up for one of her own, and finally have a reason to wear it, you can’t help but applaud her success. A vertigo accompanies the final twist, and as simple as the film may seem, it works its magic.