Your Weekly Roundup of New Movies: “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” Is Relentlessly Pleasant

What to see and what to skip when going to the theater.

MRS. HARRIS GOES TO PARIS

*** Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris’ simple storyline mirrors tales told for millennia about pilgrimages undertaken by sainted war widows upon crossing paths with the divine. This particular telling of Paul Gallico’s 1958 novel finds plucky charwoman Ada Harris (Lesley Manville) more superstitious than strictly spiritual. While making ends meet as an itinerant chambermaid, she chances upon an employer’s Christian Dior frock and—in what amounts to a seismic religious awakening—suddenly realizes what her life of quiet service had been leading toward. Weirdly, as she musters the resolve to bum-rush the House of Dior’s imperious guardian (Isabelle Huppert), director Anthony Fabian never shies away from the economic inequalities roiling Paris’ streets amid a sanitation workers’ strike (the film is rather like a director’s cut of Mary Poppins that briefly introduces the chimney sweeps’ revolutionary sect or peers inside an opium den off Portobello Road). Though Mrs. Harris trades on the same sort of wish fulfillment and unalloyed positivity as classics of fantasy cinema, it is not a children’s movie. Quite the opposite, really, even if Ada’s journey is relentlessly pleasant enough to thrill that twinkly great aunt that lives within us all. PG. JAY HORTON. Bridgeport, Eastport, Evergreen Parkway, Fox Tower, Laurelhurst, Living Room, Vancouver Mall.

APPLES

*** It might seem too easy to draw a line between Yorgos Lanthimos and other contemporary Greek filmmakers, but Christos Nikou’s debut feature, Apples, warrants the comparison. Not only was Nikou second assistant director on Lanthimos’ 2009 breakout Dogtooth, but Apples operates with a high-concept absurdism comparable with films like The Lobster. It’s set in a world where amnesia runs rampant and the “Disturbed Memory Department” assigns patients tasks to rehumanize them—riding bicycles, attending costume parties, supporting a dying stranger—that must be documented with Polaroid selfies (the film’s protagonist is Aris, played by Aris Servetalis, who suddenly awakens on a bus and must start his anti-amnesia regimen). It’s a clever premise that benefits from audience attention and rumination, but Apples isn’t a welcoming watch. Nikou’s decision to sap vibrance and personality from his native Athens feels right out of the soft-dystopian playbook, and his script doesn’t have nearly as much fun with language as Lanthimos’ writing does. Perhaps the biggest difference, though, is that while Nikou’s tone is drab and alienating, the film is cryptically humanist. You can come away from Apples chewing not only on weighty themes related to pandemics and “do it for the ‘Gram” culture, but on how the fallible space between what we remember and forget is endlessly, essentially human. NR. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Living Room.

FIRE OF LOVE

*** An essayistic portrait of volcanologist power couple Katia and Maurice Krafft, Fire of Love doesn’t overexert itself to make them camera ready. Pioneering and aestheticizing their field until their deaths in a volcanic explosion in 1991, they were always inadvertently preparing to be the subjects of director Sara Dosa’s stylish, adoring testament to the Kraffts’ two shared loves: volcanoes and each other. (By the way, Wes Anderson probably owes their estate a royalty for the red beanies and direct-to-face zooms we see in their mountains of documentary footage.) Narrated by the poetic murmurs by Miranda July and featuring a soundtrack that includes Ennio Morricone, Brian Eno and others, the film is head over heels for the “alchemy” of the Kraffts’ love and all that volcanoes symbolize in parallel: death, rebirth and unbridled, mysterious emotion. Eventually, Fire of Love runs dry of things to say about a couple who appears to have had no existence beyond studying and filming gorgeous hellfire, but it’s a film begging for big-screen beholding. The Kraffts spent their lives impossibly close to volcanoes, and in the film, they’re often seen as silhouettes dwarfed by nature at its most overpowering. Get small with them. PG. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Bridgeport, City Center, Clackamas, Hollywood, Living Room.

NOPE

** In Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Richard Dreyfuss sought liberation from domestication; in Arrival, Amy Adams wanted to escape the gravity of grief. Most UFO movies are about gazing into the unknown to fill the emptiness within—and for a while, that’s what siblings OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald (Keke Palmer) seem to be doing in Jordan Peele’s Nope. While grieving their late father (Keith David), they spot a sleek shape in the sky above their California horse ranch. Is their desperation to get what OJ calls “the Oprah shot” of a possible flying saucer born of bereavement? It makes sense that they would seek the comfort of an otherworldly mystery, but Nope lacks the discipline necessary to dig into their souls. After directing two smart and speedy horror films (Get Out and Us), Peele has made an oddly shapeless movie, stretching a relatively simple premise out to a 130-minute runtime. While Get Out’s single-minded dedication to uprooting the hypocrisies of white liberals helped win him a Best Original Screenplay Oscar, Nope toys with half-formed ideas about loss, miracles and nature, all too obviously in search of a reason to exist. Middling Peele may be light years beyond the usual summer-movie schlock, but even his most ardent admirers should be able to tell the difference between a film he has to make and a film he wants to make. R. BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. Academy Theater, Bagdad, Cinema 21, Cinemagic, City Center, Fox Tower, Laurelhurst, Living Room, Lloyd Center, Pioneer Place, St. Johns, St. Johns Twin, Studio One.