‘Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris’ and Makes a Pit Stop in Our Hearts

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Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (CREDIT: Dávid Lukács/© 2021 Ada Films Ltd – Harris Squared Kft)

Starring: Lesley Manville, Isabelle Huppert, Lambert Wilson, Alba Baptista, Lucas Bravo, Ellen Thomas, Jason Isaacs

Director: Anthony Fabian

Running Time: 115 Minutes

Rating: PG for Rudeness and Arrogance

Release Date: July 15, 2022 (Theaters)

What’s It About?: The widowed Ada Harris (Lesley Manville) is generally happy with her life as a cleaning lady in 1950s London. But there’s one thing she’s always dreamed of doing: embark to the City of Lights so that she can purchase her very own Dior dress. When a series of fortunate events provide her with a windfall of quick cash, she takes the opportunity to make the fantasy come true. Alas, despite her ability to pay immediately at the point of purchase, she is sneered at by the snooty haute couture establishment. But she also wins over the more progressive elements under Dior’s employ and barrels over everyone else with her sheer indefatigability.

What Made an Impression?: A few years ago, Lesley Manville starred in another finely stitched-together fashion-centric film. That would be Phantom Thread, a movie that features remarkable craftsmanship but which I have no desire to ever see again because I found it so profoundly unpleasant. Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, on the other hand, is worthy of a rewatch, as it is charming from beginning to end, no matter how much anybody tries to beat that out of it. And it’s a good thing, too, because in the movie’s telling, she pretty much singlehandedly saves Dior from oblivion. I doubt that that’s historically accurate, but I kind of want it to be now.

In addition to getting fitted for her dress and saving an entire fashion house, Mrs. Harris also finds time to encourage a budding romance between a Dior employee (Lucas Bravo) and one of the models (Alba Baptista). It’s built on a foundation of existentialism and socialism, so that’s good to see. And, you might be wondering, is there also room for Mrs. Harris’ own love to blossom? Well, she does meet a fancy marquis (Lambert Wilson) who finds her adorable, and then there’s her friend Archie (Jason Isaacs) back home at the race track. She seems a little uncertain when it comes to affairs of the heart, though, but I suspect her late husband would be happy for her to give it a go, and you know what? I bet movie theater audiences would be as well. Oh well, I’m sure she’ll take it all at whatever speed she needs to for herself.

Anyway, in summary, preternaturally strong-willed characters like Mrs. Harris could easily become exhausting, but that’s not the case here, as Manville knows how to calibrate every one of her acting decisions just so.

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is Recommended If You Like: Paying in full in cash, Getting your measurements taken, Discussing Sartre over dinner

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Dresses

Best Film Performances of the 2010s

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CREDIT: YouTube Screenshots

Back in April, I revealed my lists of the best podcasts, TV shows, TV episodes, albums, songs, and movies of the 2010s. I declared that that was it for my Best of the Decade curating for this particular ten-year cycle. But now I’m back with a few more, baby! I’ve been participating in a series of Best of the 2010s polls with some of my online friends, and I wanted to share my selections with you. We’re including film performances, TV performances, directors, and musical artists, so get ready for all that.

First up is Film Performances. Any individual performance from any movie released between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2019 was eligible, whether it was live-action, voice-only, or whatever other forms on-screen acting take nowadays. For actors who played the same character in multiple movies, each movie was considered separately.


Movie Review: ‘Greta’ is Kind of Dumb But Also Very Fun, Just Like All Good Trashy Thrillers!

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CREDIT: Jonathan Hession/Focus Features

Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Isabelle Huppert, Maika Monroe, Colm Feore, Stephen Rea

Director: Neil Jordan

Running Time: 98 Minutes

Rating: R for Psychological and Physical Torture From a Spry Sixtysomething Woman

Release Date: March 1, 2019

Is it better to know going in to a nonsensical movie that it doesn’t make sense, or to put it all together afterwards? Or perhaps thinking in terms of a binary between “sense” and “nonsense” is not really the best way to approach a juicy horror flick about obsession. That is certainly the case with Greta, in which director Neil Jordan sets Isabelle Huppert loose on Chloë Grace Moretz, turning a budding intergenerational friendship into a deranged domestic fantasy. There are moments when I wonder how a character can get away with so much bad behavior, or when I am taken back at how big a role coincidence plays in all the machinations. But there are so many twisted pleasures along the way that I cannot be too mad.

CREDIT: Shane Mahood/Focus Features

Frances McCullen (Moretz) has recently moved to New York City, and she is somehow still trusting enough to return a handbag she finds on the subway to the home of the person who lost it. That person is Greta (Huppert), a French piano teacher who lives alone and who it turns out has been leaving behind a whole series of bags to lure unsuspecting kind young women into her clutches. But before we peel back all the layers on Greta, we get to spend some quality time with Frances and her roommate Erica (Maika Monroe). Erica is the much more cautious yin to Frances’ yang, immediately pegging Greta for the creep that she is. But that does not mean she isn’t also an advocate for alternative gut health treatments, which means that we get a surprising amount of dialogue about the wonders of colonics. Seriously, I would have been happy if this movie were just an hour and a half of Monroe discussing the joy of fluids getting shot up her butthole.

As for why Greta enjoys torturing Frances and others like her, her motivations remain vague, to the film’s advantages although perhaps to some viewers’ frustrations. Through reveals about Greta’s strained relationship with her daughter, Jordan hints at some clear explanation that never really comes. But if you calibrate your expectations to accepting that that explanation is unnecessary, then you should be good to go. There are also some implications that Frances is drawn to Greta because she sees her as a replacement for her own recently deceased mother. But all this mother business is just a framework to build the shenanigans around. Don’t worry about all that – just sit back and enjoy Huppert dancing psychotically and ignore any concerns about “logic” and “motivation.”

Greta is Recommended If You Like: Audition, Misery, The Visit

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Colonics

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Happy End’ Finds Michael Haneke Still Stinging, But Less Focused

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CREDIT: Sony Pictures Classics

This review was originally posted on News Cult in December 2017.

Starring: Fantine Harduin, Matthieu Kassovitz, Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Franz Rogowski, Laura Verlinden, Toby Jones

Director: Michael Haneke

Running Time: 107 Minutes

Rating: R for Secret Sexual Proclivities and Mental Illness Troubles

Release Date: December 22, 2017 (Limited)

Austrin auteur Michael Haneke does not make his viewing experiences easy for his audiences, and that is exactly the point. The world as he sees it is stiff and unforgiving, so why not make his films just as ramrod confrontational? His 1997 home invasion thriller Funny Games plays wildly with morality, also disorienting his audience with fourth-wall breaking tricks and film grammar deconstruction. His latest, Happy End, proves that he still has the same impish spirit and penchant for poking his nose at the middle class, but this time the effects are slighter and more scattered.

Happy End is essentially about emotional numbness and how suicidal tendencies run through one family. This is difficult material, but worth exploring. The trouble is, Haneke’s approach is so cold and detached here that it is difficult to understand what point he is making and what is really going on. The film begins with preteen Eve (Fantine Harduin) poisoning her mother with sedatives, and I am still trying to figure out if she was in fact trying to kill her, or if she had any clear motivation at all. She poisons herself in the same way later on, and she is so hard to read that I cannot tell whether or not this suicide attempt is due to actual depression. When she helps her frail, wheelchair-bound grandfather Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) commit suicide by drowning, it suggests that depression runs in the family. But Georges’ decision might be based more on the pain of old age.

Haneke has a knack for stretching the limits of both civility and cinema, and that is present in Happy End in ways that have stuck with me. A troubled son (Franz Rogowski) disturbs his mother’s (Isabelle Huppert) engagement by showing up with a group of uninvited refugees. Eve’s father (Matthieu Kassovitz) and his new wife (Laura Verlinden) are too distracted by the blah-ness of life to really know what is going on around them. Multiple shots consist of cell phone video footage or a computer message screen. But the overall approach is as numb as its characters and doesn’t add up to a coherent message.

Happy End is Recommended If You Like: The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Funny Games, The Square, but like, the first draft version of all of those

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Hamster Videos

This Is a Movie Review: Elle

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Elle opens with Michèle (Isabelle Huppert) enduring a sexual assault from a home invader. This scene is revisited multiple times, both mentally and in actuality, as the assailant continues to strike. These repetitions play with your head, partly because it is sickening to watch the scene play out over and over again and partly because Michèle is so seemingly calm when coming to terms with it. She eventually unmasks her attacker and gets her own twisted revenge. Meanwhile, she is dedicated to her job at a videogame company developing an aggressively sexist World of Warcraft-style game, so score one for thematic consistency. Also, weirdly, there is also an acidic family dramedy going on, which certainly can realistically exist alongside the nastiness, but surprise, surprise: its ordinariness may actually be the film’s most button-pushing quality.

I give Elle 8 Pants Around 10 Ankles.