‘Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris review: Haute couture for the humble

In “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris,” Lesley Manville returns to the world of high fashion in a reversal of her Oscar-nominated role in “Phantom Thread.” British couture and enemy of Vicky Krieps’ low-born muse – would turn catatonic if Mrs. Ada Harris de Manville waltzed into the dressing room, asking for a “dress” with her cockney trailing.

Unsurprisingly, the formidable Manville pulls off the switcheroo, instilling a tenderness and grace in her role as genius housekeeper that far exceeds the pish-chic feel-good that is the film around her.

Directed by Anthony Fabian, “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” offers a kind of British comfort similar to that of the “Paddington” movies, though it’s not quite as goofy or funny.

Mrs. Harris, a widow working in the service of London’s post-war elite, has her eyes set on a personalized Dior dress and, after a series of happy events, travels to Paris to collect the garment of her dreams. Although she has found the money, our heroine has to deal with the threatening Madame Colbert (Isabelle Huppert) and the arrogant morals of the biz and its patrons.

To the other world-weary employees — benevolent model and philosopher Natasha (Alba Baptista), amorous accountant André (Lucas Bravo) — Ms. Harris single-handedly proves that company rules aren’t necessarily ironclad. If a lowly maid can get her hands on a dress that costs £600, what’s to stop Natasha from pursuing an intellectual life, or André from revolutionizing the business to appeal to women of all walks of life?

The ridiculously frumpy worker bee trope, filled with optimism and quiet wisdom, is demeaning, and Ms. Harris’ iteration is no exception. Despite its cheerful presentation of beautiful clothes and vibrant mid-century Parisian sights, the film is caught between its fantasies and its principles, landing in a more boring and dull place than it should be.

Mrs. Harris goes to Paris
Rated PG. Duration: 1h55. In theaters.

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