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'Mack & Rita' and 'Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris': Robin's movie review

A movie poster for "Mack & Rita" shows actress Diane Keaton standing next to a pool that has a flamingo float inside and trash littered around. Keaton looks worried as actress Taylour Paige stands at a distance behind while looking in Keaton's direction. Block text in the lower third of the poster reads "Old soul. New age. Mack & Rita."
Courtesy of Gravitas Ventures

For this week’s KUNR Movie Minutes, Robin Holabird takes a look at two films: Mack & Rita and Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris.

The movie Mack & Rita lets Diane Keaton continue the march for former ingénues to maintain a chick-flick presence, a good idea that fails to hurdle all its challenges. Like Keaton’s movie Book Club and Poms, Mack & Rita pulls in a strong cast of women, with the best work coming from longtime pros like a mix that includes Loretta Devine, Wendie Malick, and Lois Smith.

Downing chardonnay enthusiastically, they slide into happy repartee, letting any inanities slide off them with ease. And inanities cause the movie’s biggest problems, starting with its whole body-swapping concept. Unlike Tom Hanks and the little boy who wanted to grow Big, Mack features a woman in her prime who wants to hit Medicare digits. Undefined movie magic makes it happen, giving Keaton the chance to put herself in awkward situations, like a Pilates class where klutziness rules.

Keaton remains likable in a role designed to highlight the points that make her famous, like her skill for mixing unexpected fashion options that bring on smiles. But, even she cannot overcome the story’s structural flaws. Of course, any body-swap story features a fantasy element that requires suspending belief, but the successful ones contain some truths. That logic falls apart in Mack & Rita, where everyone loves the older woman because of her open honesty — except she’s living a lie.

A movie poster for "Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris" has a pink background with cutouts for the movie's title. Actress Lesley Manville is in the center in a walking motion wearing a long coat and purse. Supporting actors are shown around her and the words "follow your dreams" are below.
Courtesy Universal Pictures

A situation that induces more head-shaking confusion than laughs, the Mack & Rita movie lacks a workable premise. In contrast, the newest version of Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris gives an experienced actress a chance to make unbelievable circumstances believable or desirable enough to accept a whole nonstop set of improbabilities.

Leslie Manville, the Oscar nominee from Phantom Thread and upcoming Princess Margaret in The Crown, proves so likable as a British cleaning woman who takes Cristian Dior by surprise that it only seems mean-spirited to wish for anything other than the story’s feel-good antics.

Based on a 1950s novel by bestselling author Paul Gallico, Mrs. Harris features fantasy elements without engaging in supernatural activities, with a romantic and fashion-oriented world geared towards the chick-flick set. Gallico’s dream suggests that a truly kind, thoughtful and nice person can overcome such obstacles as classism, ageism and being French. Manville, with smiles and warmth, makes it work.

This review aired on KUNR FM on Friday, August 19.

Robin Holabird is KUNR’s entertainment reviewer, author, and former film commissioner for the Nevada Film Office. You can browse a full archive of her reviews here.

Robin Holabird reviews movies for KUNR, and her reviews have aired for more than 30 years. During that time, she has had a high profile in the Nevada film community.
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