Photo: ‘Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris’
It’s safe to assume we’ve all had a rough few years. Media has always been a form of escapism, inviting an audience to experience another world for a while. Some people like to slip into sweeping romances, while others prefer drama or action. But, recently audiences have been gravitating toward comfort, toward safety. The trend of comforting media has created a bit of a movement, ‘Nicecore’. Of course, this is not an official term, but for the purposes of this preface, it sums things up nicely.
Some people absolutely adore Nicecore media, some not so much, and it’s easy to understand either side. The genre is characterized by great amounts of optimism, empathy, and togetherness. There is hardly ever an antagonist that stands a chance against the protagonist’s mantra of just be nice and encourage others to be the same. For some, this is just the type of heartwarming storytelling they’re looking for; Others are underwhelmed by the lack of action or conflict. No matter how you feel about it, ‘Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris’ is a prime example of this type of media, and it’s just incredible.
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Prior to researching for this review, I had no idea that ‘Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris’ was an adaptation, but alas, it is. The source material brings us all the way back to 1958 with the similarly named novel ‘Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris’. The book was the first in a four-part series with each installation following Mrs. Harris and her latest journey. In the UK, the novel was released under the title ‘Flowers for Mrs. Harris’, which brings us to the next adaptation. In May 2016 ‘Flowers for Mrs. Harris’, the stage musical opened in England, followed by another production in 2018.
The musical wasn’t even the first adaptation to come from the novel. In 1992 the weird and wonderful world of TV movies delivered us the first ‘Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris’ film, starring Angela Lansbury, Diana Rigg, and Omar Sharif. As is the case with many TV movies, I haven’t exactly been able to find a wealth of information on the film, but that’s alright with me – the 2022 version is more than satisfactory.
‘Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris’ – Plot Overview
Mrs. Ada Harris is a London cleaning lady in the 1950s, following World War II. Her husband went missing in action in the war years ago, but it isn’t until the events of the film that she learns, along with the audience, that he did, in fact, die in service, leaving her widowed. In her grief, she focuses her attention back on work, where she learns that one of her clients has purchased a pricey £500 Dior gown, the kind of dress that Mrs. Harris has only ever dreamed of. After a lucky win betting on football matches, it seems a dress of her own may be a possibility. After some strokes of good luck and some of bad, she’s on a plane for the first time and off to Paris.
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Upon arrival, Mrs. Harris learns that purchasing a Dior gown isn’t as simple as walking into a store and browsing some racks. She ends up in Paris for a week, rather than a day, but she’s by no means alone. Her sunny disposition and excitement regarding her situation drew Dior designers and models alike into her orbit and by the time she arrived home her trip was less about the gown and more about the people she met along the way.
A Stream of Endless Likability
Once the film began it took me all of 30 seconds to absolutely adore Mrs. Harris. She’s down to earth, she’s optimistic, and she’s everything you could wish for in a protagonist you’re meant to care so deeply about. The plot of the film is more mundane than most, in essence, it’s just about a woman buying a dress, so it’s imperative that the audience cares about Mrs. Harris, or else the story may fail to be engaging. That was never an issue here. It’s a good thing I attended a late showtime with only my sister and me in attendance, as we were both openly gushing mere minutes in. Lesley Manville is absolutely perfect for the role, nailing the sweetness of Mrs. Harris while also providing laugh after laugh.
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Mrs. Harris’ best friend, Vi, was also an immediate crowd pleaser. Within seconds of their first interaction, you can tell exactly the type of relationship they have, and it’s the exact type of relationship we all wish for. They laugh about anything and everything, they give each other unconditional support, the fabrics of their lives are woven together. Although Vi stays behind while Mrs. Harris takes Paris, Ellen Thomas makes the most of each and every scene she appears in.
A Little Bit of Everything
While there is a love story for Mrs. Harris, it takes the backseat until the very end. The real romantic subplot is between Dior designer Andre and model Natasha. Their romance is perfectly awkward, it’s painfully clear that they wouldn’t get together without Mrs. Harris’ loving nudging. The way she is able to enter a new city and a new situation and immediately play matchmaker is beautifully uncomplicated, delivering all the gushy parts of a romcom, leaving out the tears, misunderstandings, or wallowing in the rain.
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This isn’t to say everything is sunshine and rainbows, there’s just enough conflict to cut the sweetness and leave the audience without cavities. Yes, Mrs. Harris is a bubbly, lovable character, but there’s plenty of villandry throughout the film, the odd bitter soul who can’t bear to see Mrs. Harris smiling sweetly. There’s also the matter that Mrs. Harris has been dealt a rough hand, she works long hours of labor, she lost her husband, she’s left strikingly out of place in her efforts to follow her dream. In the end, her difficulties are no match for the overall sweetness of the film, creating a pleasant viewing experience and an even more pleasant world to escape into.
Cast & Crew:
Cast: Lesley Manville, Lucas Bravo, Alba Baptista, Ellen Thomas
Director: Anthony Fabian
Writer: Anthony Fabian, Keith Thompson, Carroll Cartwright
By Lara Glennon
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Lara Glennon is an aspiring screenwriter looking to share her love and passion for all things film and television. She aims to use her writing to shine a light on artists who are working to make change, both in media and in the world. The Hollywood Insider’s focus on substance over gossip is perfect for Lara, as she wants to highlight the good in the world and those who create it. She enjoys spending her time creating and consuming art, searching for unique voices and ideas in media.