Plot: What’s it about?
I don’t know why, but sometimes, for me, I get the most enjoyment out of movies that I have no idea what to expect when starting them. Please pardon that choppy sentence and realize that this is, by and large, part of my “job” as a movie reviewer. I find that if I set my expectations too high then I’m usually let down. Rarely do films deliver on the hype, but we know that they do exist. But it’s the little “hidden gems” that when I put the disc in the player and watch the ending credits roll, that really bring a smile to my face. Such is the case, I’m sure you all probably saw that coming, with Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris. Despite a snappy, clever title I’d never heard anything about the film. Add to that, “British” films usually aren’t my thing, but they do have a charm about them that’s hard to ignore. And I’ll admit that I know nothing of 1950’s-esque women’s fashion, more to the point – Dior dresses. But hey, I’m always willing to learn. Let’s head to City of Light.
Ada Harris (Lesley Manville) is a cleaning lady for a wealthy couple. She lives in 1950’s England and her meager earnings only supply her with enough to buy food, utilities and maybe an occasional drink. She’s got an admirer, Archie (Jason Isaacs) as well. Ada has never been able to afford any of the luxurious things owned by her employers. So when she sees a casually-thrown Dior dress tossed in a closet by her boss (Anna Chancellor), it hits home. Ada doesn’t take things like this for granted. But as fate would have it, Ada comes into some unexpected money and she ventures to London with the sole intent of blowing it on, you guessed it, a new Dior dress of her own. She doesn’t really have anywhere to wear it, but to her having a small taste of elegance is what it’s all about. She crashes a fashion show where the snooty hostess (Isabelle Huppert), wants to protect the name of Dior. She goes to extreme lengths to prevent Ada from buying the dress. Add to this that Ada manages to find an important Ally in the Marquis de Chassagne (Lambert Wilson), someone who sympathizes with her dream.
Let’s face it, a movie about a woman who’s sole purpose in life is to buy a dress doesn’t exactly sound like it’d be an interesting premise for a movie. And it could have gone wrong in so many ways. But this one works. I’d read another review of this that compared this movie to my all-time favorite film – Caddyshack. But, thinking about it more – it’s a pretty spot on analogy. Caddyshack focused on a blue collar kid who wanted to earn a scholarship so that he could go to college. He was surrounded by folks with plenty of money who took it for granted. Ada Harris is, for all intents and purposes, Danny Noonan. Is your mind blown? This is a harmless, feel good film that I can see myself watching again. It’s enjoyable, well made and acted and entertaining. What more could we ask for?
Video: How’s it look?
Perhaps it’s because I’m unoriginal or that I have a short attention span, but watching Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris reminded me a lot of a recent film I reviewed – The Duke. And yes, I realize that both took place in England at some point in the past. The point being, they share a lot of the same qualities when it comes to how they’re presented on the screen (swap a painting for a Dior dress and there ya go). All kidding aside, the 2.39:1 AVC HD image leaves very little to the imagination. Even the “dreary” scenes seem to pop with a splash of color. Warm interiors are complimented by bright and cheery external shots. Detail, as expected, is top notch – it’s tack sharp. Rounding out this image are strong, bold colors and equally impressive contrast.
Audio: How’s it sound?
This might not be the most ideal movie to showcase your home theater setup, but it’s got a few moments that took me by surprise. By and large, the film is dialogue-driven and I think I mentioned this in my review of The Duke, the British accent is one that’s always been hard for me to understand. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t need the closed captioning on or anything, but they might have helped! Nevertheless, vocals are sharp and crisp, there are some isolated surround effects that add to the overall ambiance. It’s a nice-sounding track that, I doubt, will leave anyone wanting more.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Deleted Scenes – A trio of deleted scenes are the disc’s only true feature. Unfortunately they don’t add to the film much and the movie was fine without them.
- Ada Rushes Toward the Metro
- Ada Wants to Speak to André
- Full Cabaret
- Gag Reel – Oh those Brits – so bloody funny!
The Bottom Line
I’m guilty of judging a book by its cover. Sorry, but it’s true. I’d stumbled across another online review of this movie and it got me excited to see it. While it didn’t change my life, I have to say that it’s nice to see a movie that does make you smile. And this one did. The technical aspects of the movie are top notch, though this “Collector’s Edition” really only has three deleted scenes and a gag reel. I’m not sure what makes it “collectible” but I think it’ll find a home in many movie libraries.