Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris

Directed by: Anthony Fabian
Distributed by: Focus Features

Written by Patrick Hao


The Nicecore movement of aggressively optimistic and empathetic films and television shows has been pervasive even though people do not quite have a clear definition of what fits into this ever-popular genre. It seems weird to equate something like “Everything Everywhere All at Once” with “Paddington.” “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” might be a tidy fit into the genre, especially since its main character Mrs. Harris (Lesley Manville) seems to be a Paddington-type character in her own right. Like Paddington, Mrs. Harris has been a popular character in a series of English novels from the 1950s, the first being titled “Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris.” And it makes sense why she is so popular. Her aggressive, empathetic working-class nature changes the hearts of the cynics that surround her.

The film version, directed diligently by Anthony Fabian, does not seem to strive too far from the source novel. Mrs. Harris is a widowed cleaning lady who is kind to everyone she works for, even if that kindness is not always reciprocated. Her one big dream is to own a couture Dior dress, which in the 1950s was haute and expensive. Through the kindness of her friends and luck, she saves enough money to go to Paris to get herself a Dior dress. 

Once she gets to Paris, she is initially met with resistance. Her working-class sensibilities are not well received by the general manager of the Dior house (Isabelle Huppert) but through the assistance of a widowed French Maquis (Lambert Wilson), a model who yearns for a more intellectually demanding profession (Alba Baptista), and an accountant at Dior with unexpressed plans to modernize the brand (Andre Fauvel), Mrs. Harris gets her chance at a dress while changing the lives of the people she meets. The film is lightly funny and buoyed by stalwarts in Manville and Huppert. It is always nice to see actors who are so adept at bouncing between light and heavy material. 

The plot is filled with frivolity, and while pleasant it is aggressively light. The undercurrent of the film is the class divide, which might be more obvious in the have and have-nots struggle between Mrs. Harris and the rich ladies of high fashion. But the film does not say anything about it, which lies at the heart of the Nicecore movement. While empathy towards everyone is great, what does that actually say about the structural problems that exist? In the periphery of the film which seems extraneous based on how little attention the film pays to it, is a French garbage worker strike. While this may be the start of a more pointed statement on the rot created by the class divide, not much comes from it. 

That is not to say that a film like “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” should be about capital “I” issues. But, we are already beginning to see media critically examine Nicecore entertainment like the latest season of “Ted Lasso.” So it is strange to see a film that unabashedly embraces such sentiments. Who am I to complain about it though. It is easy to be cynical about the world and perhaps the best balm is a nice house cleaner yearning for a nice dress while being nice to others.

“Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” Trailer

“Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” will open in wide theatrical release on July 14th.

You can follow Patrick and his passion for film on Letterboxd and Twitter.

Leave a Reply