It’s been more than 10 years since your Amanda was last in Paris. It’s been many more years than that since I co-starred in three French Spaghetti Westerns, including the underground favorite Les Mains Pleines de Francs, or A Handful of Francs with Pierre Westwood that may or may not have been an homage to a Fistfull of Dollars with Clint Eastwood. Those were ours formidable (great days) and every now and then I miss Paris quite a bit and try to find movies that will, at least for an hour or two, take me back there. I saw three movies this week with a tie to Paris but only one captured the allure of the City of Light. First, let me say that the most Parisian thing you can watch on TV is the Netflix series Emily in Paris, an adequate show with fabulous clothes in a beautiful setting. It makes the most of the city and has beaucoup of stereotypes: naive American girl with spectacular wardrobe, mean female French boss with spectacular wardrobe, wacky friend with eclectic style, sexy single neighbor, etc. Everyone says “Mon Dieu” a lot and in two seasons Emily (Lily Collins) has hit every cafe, club and outdoor market in the city. It’s the perfect quick fix for the “I Miss Paris" blues.
The main character in the new streaming movie Not Okay (Rated R, Hulu) never actually goes to Paris. Danni Sanders (Zoey Deutch) is a 20 something photo editor who in a desperate attempt for attention and social media love, fakes a trip to Paris. So all you get of Paris are photoshopped images of the Eiffel Tower. Danni’s ruse gets out of hand when her faked photos put her at the site of a terrorist attack. Instead of coming clean she counts her new Instagram followers and joins a survivors of violence support group where she meets the most interesting and sympathetic character in the movie, Rowan (Mia Isaac), a school shooting survivor and legitimate social media personality. I’m probably not the desired demographic for Not OKay but I watched until the end so you don’t have to. #Notworthyourtime
Not Okay 2 out of 5 stars
From the title I thought French Exit (2020 on Starz) would be a bit more, uh, French. Michelle Pfeiffer is Frances, a very eccentric Manhattan socialite who is not particularly good with money. Forced to sell off everything, she absconds to Paris with her remaining cash and her boring teenage son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges) who is forced to leave his boring fiance. Once there, she avoids the gardens, streets and museums and instead spends most of her time in the apartment with Malcolm and her cat. Frances is unhappy, may or may not be dying, and may or may not have had something to do with her husband’s death. Either way, she’s pretty miserable. In a very jarring change of tone, the movie goes from basically a two-person character study to an odd house party of eccentrics, but it’s trying too hard it never connects with the audience. And the usually reliable Pfeiffer delivers an uneven and unsympathetic performance.
French Exit: 2 1/2 stars out of 5
You know who had a better time in Paris? The very likable lead of Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris (Rated PG in theaters). This charming, entertaining, feel-good film follows housecleaner and war widow Ada Harris (Lesley Manville) who happens upon a Dior couture dress in a client’s closet. Ada decides she has to have a Dior of her own and sets about saving, gambling and good lucking her way to the money she needs to travel to Paris and buy her dress.
The 1958 novel by Paul Gallico has been adapted before but this version was produced in partnership with the House of Dior, so the dresses, oh the dresses, are exact breathtaking replicas. If that wasn’t enough, the film’s costume designer is three-time Oscar winner Jenny Beavan. Mrs. Harris is as nice and genuine as can be and once in Paris encounters her share of stereotypical judgemental snobs, especially House of Dior Manager Madame Colbert, played by the fabulously stern Isabelle Hupert. She also meets very kind Parisians who are impressed by her pluck and joie de vivre. They help her and she helps them and I sat there smiling the whole time, while plotting how I could break through the movie screen and steal those dresses. I enjoyed every minute of Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris and I credit that to the exuberant and endearing performance of Manville, who plays off every character in the movie to perfection. In a not always believable story, she is totally believable. Mrs. Harris might be out of her element in the sophisticated world of Paris fashion, but you never feel sorry for her. She’s determined and wily and funny and kind and she actually enjoys her trip to Paris. We might not be able to afford a ticket to Paris but, Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris provides a lovely escape. Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris 4 1/2 stars out of 5