Opening 10 Nov 2022
Writing credits: Paul Gallico, Carroll Cartwright, Anthony Fabian, Keith Thompson, Olivia Hetreed
Principal actors: Lesley Manville, Isabelle Huppert, Lambert Wilson, Alba Baptista, Lucas Bravo
Working for herself in London Mrs. Ada Harris’ (Lesley Manville) best friend Vi’s (Ellen Thomas) cheery optimism boosts her spirits. Because Ada is lonely, and still waiting for word about her missing-in-action husband. Among Mrs. Harris’ clients are the rich Lady Dant (Anna Chancellor) with her posh lifestyle, and messy, ditzy Pamela (Rose Williams) struggling to break into fame; their commonality is self-centeredness, and their cleaning lady. When Ada sees Lady Dant’s haute couture Dior frock it is love at first sight. A Dior becomes Ada’s must-have; she gets Vi involved and among their schemes to finding money is going to the tracks where a friend (Jason Isaacs) helps. Then the letter from the services arrives. As if in a dream, Ada attends the 10th anniversary collection showing at Dior, is befriended by Dior employees (Alba Baptista, Lucas Bravo) and sidesteps a Dior director’s (Isabelle Huppert) wrath. But then, Ada offers cash to buy the haute couture dress; that single act changes more than any of them could have ever envisioned.
Director Anthony Fabian’s film is the third incarnation of Paul Gallico’s 1958 novel Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris; he shares screenwriting credits with Carroll Cartwright, Keith Thompson, and Olivia Hetreed. Set in the 1950s after World War ll, many were struggling including high-fashion houses where each article of haute couture clothing is hand sewn with exquisite materials and one-of-a-kind designs. These historical facts add depth and whimsy to the screenplay’s storyline where some poetic license was used to embroider the book.
Lesley Manville skips ahead setting a lively pace that fellow cast members hop and bounce along to. The production values are like needlecraft – simple but not frivolous: Felix Wiedemann’s cinematography, Barney Pilling’s editing, Rael Jones’s music, and Luciana Arrighi’s noteworthy production design’s recreation of the 1950’s Dior studio. Charming and uplifting if not a mite forced in some scenes, nevertheless Fabian says, “The key to this story is that it is magic realism, so it has to have an equal dose of magic and reality,” Its take-away: pay attention to lessons sent from the universe. (Marinell Haegelin)