Nov 19, 2010

[Movies] Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005)

Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005)I'm pretty sure I wrote a review for this movie before, but that was back when I only used Multiply was my only output for geeky reviews and such. But since a proper review doesn't exist on this blog at this time, I figured it was okay to write an "official" version to be recorded well into the far flung future.

As part of my roster of actresses that I love, one major one among them is the most beloved Dame Judi Dench. And it's not just about her prowess in dramatic roles. She's actually quite good a comedy - perhaps devilishly so, and it's always a treat to see her in such roles here and there. It certainly is a testament to her wide range of skills as an actress and that deserves a heck of a lot of credit no matter how you look at it.

Yeah, she was great in the James Bond movies and all, but I know I really, absolutely fell in love with her when she played Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love. Then this movie came along and I knew I was hooked to loving her totally. I mean seriously, how can one resist her wiles, yes?

Mrs Henderson PresentsImage via WikipediaMrs Henderson Presents is a 2005 British comedy that was directed by Stephen Frears. It was based on the real-life story of the Windmill Theatre in London.

The story begins with Mrs. Laura Henderson (Judi Dench) at the funeral of her husband. Now a widow, she tries to pass the time by taking on different hobbies, as was recommended by her friend Lady Conway (Thelma Barlow). After trying out a variety of things such as cross-stitching, charities and the like, she eventually encounters the closed down Windmill Theatre and decides to buy it.

She hires Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins) to put up a variety revue show as the main attraction. Van Damm comes up with the idea of calling it "Revuedeville" and stages multiple shows in a day almost non-stop in order to be different. But the other theaters figure this out and thus in order to shake things up, Mrs. Henderson suggests that they include female nudity in the shows somehow similar to the Moulin Rouge in Paris, France. The idea is rather unheard of at the time and Mrs. Henderson devotes all her energies and her unique wiles to convince the Lord Chamberlain (Christopher Guest) that the shows can be considered a form of art. At the same time, Van Damm goes out into the countryside to look for just the right kind of talent as the star of their show.

Only the British could pull of turning the story of a nude revue theater into something as comical and quite brilliant as this movie. While initially it just seems like a humorous plot twist for an old lady like Mrs. Henderson to want to put on nude shows, there are very deep and significant reasons behind her actions. These are only explained slowly as the movie progresses, and the director together with the writers did a tremendous job of keeping these elements subtle and almost forgettable until you get towards the end and things start to make sense.

The shows themselves are quite hilarious in their absurdity at times. It's amazing the lengths they went to think of wildly different ways to have the girls naked yet still artistic in nature. This included having them as statues of the muses or affixed to a giant harp. And yet it all works and the end results can be quite stunning, and I'm not exactly one to appreciate the merchandise, if you get what I mean.

Major kudos to the amazing chemistry between Bob Hoskins and Judi Dench in this movie. You can totally see the odd flirtation between them that remains held back because of respect for one another and of course the fact that Van Damm is married. They trade barbs and jabs as if they had been married for decades instead of just being working partners.

Mrs. Henderson Presents is both funny and heartwarming, and that's not an adjective I'd through around loosely, especially when a female nude revue is at the center of the story. It gets 4.5 silly disguises Laura Henderson dons out of a possible 5.


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