CALLERI: A working woman dreams of owning a fabled dress | night and day

Whimsical narrative fiction is a rare bird these days, especially when it comes to movies. With the studios’ primary focus on comic book movies and their promise of mega-grossing, fewer mid-budget films are getting approved, and most that are getting approved are positioned for streaming platforms. These are films that cost from $25 million to $50 million to produce.

Some of the films will have a short theatrical run in order to qualify for the Academy Awards, but for the most part they are character-driven films, aimed at an adult audience, that tell a substantial story, designed to evoke emotion Uplifting or gently conveying humorous stories is not a high priority for Hollywood’s corporate bosses.

Studios have never shied away from whims. There are plenty of little gems, like the wonderful 1959 The Mouse That Roared, which starred Peter Sellers in three main roles and was based on Leonard Wibberley’s graphic novel. 1987’s The Princess Bride, written by William Goldman and based on his novel, is a well-deserved classic.

Writer Paul Gallico’s popular character of British cleaning lady Ada Harris can be found in four novels. A 1992 TV movie called “Mrs. Arris Goes To Paris, as the original 1958 book was titled, stars Angela Lansbury as Harris.

More than 60 years after appearing in print, London, England’s wildly popular cleaning lady Harris, finally makes her big screen debut in a rare film aimed at summertime moviegoers looking for something a little less comic- or cartoon-oriented.

“Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris” has traveled from the UK and is playing at Metro Buffalo-Niagara at the North Park Theatre.

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The film offers the familiar uniquely British exploration of its citizens, particularly those who are made up of quirky traits, self-deprecating or perhaps a tad eccentric. A film like this draws its whims from deeply rooted qualities that make a person worth getting to know. A protagonist that the audience can identify with. The story is not about a working class hero, but about a hardworking heroine.

The year is 1957 and Britain is still in the throes of recovery from World War II. The film’s comedy is rooted in sentimentality, and there are whispers of drama. The central character will touch the hearts of the people she meets on the way to the film’s clever ending. She is strong, resilient and honest.

Mrs. Harris, still a widowed widow from the war, cleans houses to earn a living. In the house of a wealthy client, she discovers something that is absolutely magical to her. It is a haute couture dress by legendary French fashion designer Christian Dior. She marvels at its beauty and wonders at its history.

Ada decides that she must have one of these dresses. Her determination is relentless and nothing will change her mind, including the fact that she can’t afford a Dior dress. She works even harder, and as befits people who deserve a little luck, some luck allows her to win some money.

Off to Paris, she goes. Gripping her stack of British pounds, Harris delights and amuses Parisians because, well, she’s adorable. Her sparkling, good-natured sweetness and inquisitive personality help her connect with the sometimes condescending citizens of France.

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Of course, Ada needs allies. And she will find you. Just as she finds a way to understand the world of high fashion. Just like she gets access to a fashion show. And just as she quickly understands that the bossy woman who controls access to Dior dresses must be won over. How it goes? How it goes? This Dior employee is a haughty obstacle to completing her mission and the chance to own a fabulous Dior original.

This is where director Anthony Fabian and his co-writers Carroll Cartwright, Keith Thompson and Olivia Hetreed really deliver the goods in a film filled with perfect goods delivery.

The character of Claudine Colbert is the French porter. To say she’s horrified that this English invader thinks she can not only wear a Dior but own one would understate the word horrified. Delightfully played by Isabelle Huppert, Colbert is as cocky as if her nose could touch the clouds. Huppert’s performance is perfect and provides an excellent counterpoint to the friendly support of the Marquis de Chassagne, a true gentleman, played well by Lambert Wilson.

As Mrs. Harris, Lesley Manville is great. She has often acted in independent films directed by the great Brit Mike Leigh. Manville is nominated for a Supporting Actress Oscar for playing the sister of a fashion designer in Paul Thomas Anderson’s amazing Phantom Thread. For the record, Niagara Falls native Mark Bridges received the Oscar for costume design for this film.

At “Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris,” Manville creates a character so endearing, relatable, and heartfelt that audiences readily believe in her and her quest. Ada’s determination is contagious. Your energy is limitless. All the sadness and disappointments of the past in their lives crumble and become building blocks on a path to happiness.

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In a film about beautiful dresses, it’s no surprise that whether we’re in London or Paris, the production values ​​are top-notch and Jenny Beavan’s costumes impeccable. The House of Dior cooperated by opening its archives to inspiration.

Like an ice cold drink on a hot summer day, “Mrs. Harris Goes To Paris is a refreshing treat. If you haven’t been to a cinema in a while, this choice might make you want to go there.

Michael Calleri reviews films for the Niagara Gazette and the news network CNHI. Contact him at [email protected]

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