Mrs. Henderson Presents
Summer 2006 Summer Films series
Sunday, June 25, 2006 at 8:00pm
Rated NR ·
A British director with an astoundingly eclectic body of work, Stephen Frears (My Beautiful Laundrette, High Fidelity) has never made the same film twice. With Mrs. Henderson Presents, Frears has taken several genres—including costume drama and the gently naughty Brit-com (à la The Full Monty or Calendar Girls) and crafted a breezy but affecting entertainment that hides a surprising emotional heft in its third act. Based on the true story of London’s Windmill Theater, the film stars Judi Dench as Laura Henderson, a widowed society woman in the 1930s who purchases the abandoned West End venue as a means to help her pass the time. She enlists experienced stage producer Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins, who also produced the film) to aid her in creating Paris-inspired vaudeville revues—which break taboos in the staid English society of the time by featuring artfully posed nude women amidst the musical shenanigans. The shows become wildly successful with soldiers during WWII, but the horror of the Blitz brings trauma to the intrepid stage troupe.
Dench and Hoskins give their usual fantastic performances, creating two characters who are comically reluctant to express their obvious affection for one another. They are supported by a charismatic cast—most notably Kelly Reilly, as their nude lead—who sing, dance, and doff their clothes with abandon, though the goings-on are always in the cleanest of fun. With beautifully staged musical numbers, a significant amount of bare flesh, and wit to spare, Mrs. Henderson Presents has something for any moviegoer and stands as yet another success for one of the world’s most pleasantly idiosyncratic filmmakers.