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Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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My Review of Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, rated PG

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is a delightful film that we thoroughly enjoyed, starring Oscar nominee Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread). The film was directed by Anthony Fabian, and the screenplay was written by Fabian, Carroll Cartwright, Keith Thompson and Olivia Hatreed, based on a 1958 novel by Paul Gallico.
The film is set in London in the 1950’s. Ada Harris, played by Manville, is a hard-working and good-hearted cleaning lady who has not heard from her Air Force husband who has been missing in action for twelve years. Vi Butterfield, played by Ellen Thomas, is a fellow cleaning lady and Ada’s good friend. Ada still holds out hope that her husband will one day walk back into her life. But then that hope is shattered when she receives a package containing his ring in the mail.
Ada sees a Dior dress that has been purchased by one of clients, and immediately falls in love with it. She decides to save up for a Dior dress of her own. She takes on sewing work to help raise the money for the trip to Dior in Paris and the dress.

SPOILER ALERT: After foolishly losing a good amount at the dog races, despite being encouraged against the bet by the kind-hearted Archie, played by Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy from the Harry Potter films), and not being paid by one of her customers, she loses hope that she will ever get her dream dress.
But then Ada receives a surprise visit indicating that she should have been receiving a widow’s pension all of these years. That unexpected money will help her get to Paris where she can buy her dream dress.
In Paris she is looked down upon and invisible by Dior’s manager, Claudine Colbert, played by Oscar nominee Isabelle Huppert (Elle), but befriended by Marquis de Chassagne, played by Lambert Wilson, who lets her attend the exclusive by invitation only fashion show as his guest. Ada is overjoyed by the dresses she sees. She falls in love with a red dress named “Temptation”.
It will take a few days for her dress to be fitted and made, so the young accountant Andre Fauvel, played by Lucas Bravo, lets her stay at his home as his sister is away. The “Face of Dior”, model, Natasha, played by Alba Baptista, gives her a ride to the man’s home. Marquis de Chassagne also begins taking a liking to Ada. Ada will build a friendship with the two during her short time in Paris.

The film features beautiful costumes, a bit of romance, scenes of Paris and a very good cast, all led by a wonderful performance by Manville.
In a time in which woke film studios are adding as many “messages” into their films as possible, it was a joy to watch this film, which was heart-warming and had no content concerns.

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Phantom Thread, rated R
** ½

Phantom Thread is a very well-acted film about a British dressmaker and the women in his life, starring acclaimed actor Daniel Day-Lewis. The movie is beautifully filmed and is supported by a very good musical score. Unfortunately, none of the main characters in the film are very unlikeable and thus I didn’t find myself caring about them. In addition, there is significant content concern which discerning viewers will want to make note of.
The film is directed and written by six-time Oscar nominee Paul Thomas Anderson (Inherent Vice, There Will Be Blood, Magnolia), who also served as cinematographer for the film. It was nominated for two Golden Globe awards (Best Actor and Best Original Music Score), and will most likely receive some Oscar nominations in the near future.
There are three primary characters in the film which is set in postwar 1950’s Britain. Three-time Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln, There Will Be Blood, My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown) announced that this would be his last
film as he will be retiring from acting. He portrays the renowned and self-obsessed fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock. The character is rumored to be based on both Cristóbal Balenciaga and Charles James.
Woodcock, a confirmed bachelor, can be demanding and cruel. He and his sister Cyril, who he refers to as his “so and so”, played by Lesley Manville (Another Year), run the House of Woodcock and are the top choice of the British elite for fashion. Many of the staff at the House of Woodcock are played by real seamstresses and are persons connected with the fashion world.
We see that there are love interests that come in and out of Reynolds’ life, but he soon tires of all of them. Sister and business partner Cyril is his only lasting relationship.

One day we see Reynolds meet Alma, a waitress at a hotel restaurant, played by Vickie Krieps. She is much younger than Reynolds. They make an instant connection, and Woodcock asks her out to dinner that evening.  Reynolds tells Alma about his late mother, but doesn’t ask Alma anything about herself. Reynolds had a very close relationship with his mother, and continues to feel her presence. Later that evening, Reynolds and Alma go to his country home where he measures her for a dress. She is the ideal size as a model for him.
Soon Alma moves into the home of Reynolds and Cyril, which also serves as the location of their dressmaking business. This doesn’t please Cyril, who is loyal to her brother and their business, and we see a competition of sorts between the two women for Reynolds’ affections and attention. A theme throughout the film is the shifting of power between the two women.
Reynolds has very established routines and doesn’t react well to any changes to them. More than just a dress designer, he’s an artist. He’s also a narcissist, and can be mean and rude. We don’t see a lot of affection between he and Alma.  She’s not really sure why she is there.  Is she just a model, or Reynolds’ lover? Then we see Alma take a shocking action aimed to draw Reynolds to her.  Keep an eye out for the themes of being needed and being in control.

Music plays a large role in this film through the score of Jonny Greenwood and other classical music. The movie is beautifully filmed, with an excellent use of color and precise details as we see Reynolds and the seamstresses work on the dresses. But key to the film is the juxtaposition between the beauty of the film (color, dressmaking, homes and landscape, people and music), and the darkness of the nature of the relationships between the three main characters.
Phantom Thread is beautifully filmed and superbly acted by all three of the main characters, though a bit slow moving. Daniel Day-Lewis may very well earn another Oscar nomination for his work here. The film receives an “R” rating for some adult language, primarily from Reynolds, and the perverse and twisted manner in which the relationship between Reynolds and Alma plays out. Because of the latter, we cannot recommend this film for people of faith.