In Slate’s annual Movie Club, film critic Dana Stevens emails with fellow critics—for 2022, Bilge Ebiri, Beatrice Loayza, and David Sims—about the year in cinema. Sometimes, other critics, or even actual movie characters, interrupt. Read the first entry here.
It’s me, Mrs. Harris, and it’s my lucky day today. It’s my lucky day every day! But today specially, because I’ve traveled all the way from Battersea to join the Movie Club.
Now, you might look down your nose at me a bit, like Madame Colbert, the directrice at Dior did when I first walked into her house of couture. I can hear you now: Who’s this old woman to tell us about the films? Ah, get away with ye! I go to the cinema all the time, and I’ve got some things to say.
I’ve known plenty of hardship in my day—my Eddie, lost in the war—and so this year I said to meself, “Mrs. Harris,” I said, “This year you’re going to find joy at the movies!” I’ve been told that Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, the movie about how I got my Dior frock, is an example of “nicecore.” I don’t know about all that. I just think it’s lovely, in difficult times, to watch a movie where good things happen to good people, and when bad things happen, they turn around again. There’s a place for crime and drama and all that—I like to curl up with a juicy mystery, meself—but I find that movies can really make me happy like nothing else. When a smile just fills up the screen, like Lesley Manville’s mug in Mister Anthony Fabian’s movie about me? And the music swells! And the dresses are so beautiful, and Paris so lovely, and it feels like a wave of kindness is beaming straight from the projection room into my heart.
And while I know sometimes movies take liberties to make a story more dramatic and all, I can tell you that when Mrs. Harris (that’s me!) actually went to Paris, everyone was just so kind. From Dior accountant M. Fauvel (played in the film by handsome Lucas Bravo) to Dior model Natasha (played by Alba Baptista) to the Marquis de Chassant, who was gallant if, between you and me, ducks, a bit clueless. (In the film, Lambert Wilson’s very dashing.)
Even when someone couldn’t bring herself to be nice from the start, like Mme. Colbert, we learned that she had troubles of her own, and it all works out all right. I’ve never seen this lady actress who plays Mme. Colbert—Isabelle Huppert? Do you know her? She’s just perfect, you know, full up to her hairdo with what the French call hauteur. Well, I’ve never seen this Isabelle in anything, but she’s got such a flair for light comedy, I expect she’s famous from all sorts of farces and romances.
Lots of other movies this year brought me a little bit of joy. Every time the young men in RRR started dancing, I was swept away, I was. I’m sure Dana’s right that old Winston Churchill wouldn’t like those posters at the end, but I could watch those gentlemen dance forever. My clumsy clogs, I couldn’t manage half those steps.
All those girls in Turning Red and their crushes—I thought of when I first met my Eddie, and how wild I was for him. I never had a boy band of me own, although didn’t I love Will Fyffe when I saw him sing “I Belong to Glasgow.” I could have stared at him all day! Turning Red really captured that time for a new generation. And I didn’t know cartoons for children could be about, you know, Aunt Flo!
I even found joy in movies that mixed high spirits with a twinge of sadness. That Aftersun girl and her hijinks in Turkey—that brought a smile to my face, even as I wiped away a tear. Jim Broadbent in The Duke and Bill Nighy in Living reminded me of blokes I know, who even later in their lives are just figuring out what kind of gentlemen they’d like to be. There’s a joy in that! Those two men in Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Broker might have stolen a baby, but in the end, what a lovely little family they made. That just warmed me right up, like a steaming plate of toad in the ‘ole (or, as my French friends call it, un crapeau dans un trou).
But the nicest movie I saw this year, the one that brought me nothing but joy, was Marcel the Shell With Shoes On. Blimey! Through the whole movie, everyone’s just lovely to him. What a pleasure to see a movie where everyone on the screen loves the character we love, and helps him fulfill his dreams. I’d have loved to see that little chap in Dior.
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The Most Joyous Movies of 2022, According to Mrs. ‘arris
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