“Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris”
Metacritic (7/10), Rotten Tomatoes (***+)
What might at first glance seem like a wispy bit of romantic fluff actually serves up more substance than expected, all dressed up in a deliciously charming package. Set in 1957, writer-director Anthony Fabian’s third narrative feature tells the dream-like story of a widowed working class English cleaning woman who longs to own an elegant Christian Dior evening gown and, through a series of remarkable synchronicities, gets her chance to do so. But, while on an impromptu shopping trip to Paris to collect her dress, she becomes the beneficiary of much, much more as a result of a number of wondrous, magical experiences that give her and others what’s needed – and what’s wished for. This engaging, uplifting tale thus waxes reminiscent of other films like this, such as the delightful offering “Under the Tuscan Sun” (2003). While the picture’s pacing could use some shoring up in the first act, the film nevertheless delivers solidly thereafter, with moments of triumph, bittersweet romance and heart-tugging joy. Credit the fine ensemble cast for making it all work, especially protagonist Lesley Manville and her persnickety and wickedly funny foil Isabelle Huppert. Then there are the positively gorgeous costumes, which are a feast for the eyes, an achievement that richly deserves rewarding come awards season. In short, don’t be misled by the seemingly saccharin-encrusted marketing for this one; there’s more to it than you might think.