Friday, December 9, 2011

Review: Judi Dench is Fun in "Mrs. Henderson Presents" (Happy B'day, Judi Dench)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 82 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005)
Running time: 103 minutes (1 hour, 43 minutes)
MPAA – R for nudity and brief language
DIRECTOR: Stephen Frears
WRITER: Martin Sherman
PRODUCER: Norma Heyman
EDITOR: Lucia Zucchetti
Academy Award nominee


Starring: Judi Dench, Bob Hoskins, Will Young, Kelly Reilly, Thelma Barlow, Michael Culkin, and Christopher Guest

After her husband Robert dies in 1937, Laura Henderson (Judi Dench) struggles to find a hobby to occupy her time, and one day, chance affords an opportunity when she passes by an old movie theatre on London’s West End. She buys the theatre and rebuilds it as The Windmill, a venue for musical theatre. Mrs. Henderson takes on a salty theatre manager and showman, Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins), and together they make their show, a kind of musical theatre they call “Revudeville,” a hit, even if they are occasionally at odds with one another.

However, other theatres are soon copying The Windmill’s winning formula. It is then that Mrs. Henderson proposes an idea that has been in her heart for a long time – have nude actresses on stage (similar to what the Moulin Rouge in Paris does). That raises eyebrows, but the nude musical revue is an even bigger hit. But all isn’t happiness and sunshine; the show that Mrs. Henderson presents must struggle to go on as World War II arrives and the Germans bomb London.

Mrs. Henderson Presents, based on a true story, is a movie of two minds. The first 50 minutes or so of the film is a delightful comedy of manners, class divisions, creative differences, and musical theatre. The fest of the film is a dour, World War II drama that clunks about as if the filmmakers weren’t sure just what kind of “Masterpiece Theatre” movie this picture should be. Mrs. Henderson Presents is indicative of director Stephen Frears work – when he’s on (High Fidelity and Dirty Pretty Things), he’s really on, but when he stumbles, his films are uneven (The Grifters and Hero), and there’s a bit of both here.

A few things make this a good movie. There is a scene of full frontal nudity featuring Bob Hoskins. Sandy Powell’s colorful costumes are eye-catching, and I found myself always waiting to see what she’d give us next. The musical theatre (the songs more than the acting and dancing, although both are good) is fun and bubbly. Finally, Judi Dench delivers her usual stellar work. She’s witty and delightful and wields screenwriter Martin Sherman’s dialogue and character of Mrs. Henderson with the assurance of a master fencer. She’s just fun to watch, and her fans shouldn’t miss Mrs. Henderson Presents.

6 of 10

2006 Academy Awards: 2 nominations: “Best Achievement in Costume Design” (Sandy Powell) and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” (Judi Dench)

2006 BAFTA Awards: 4 nominations: “Anthony Asquith Award for Film Music” (George Fenton), “Best Costume Design” (Sandy Powell), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” (Judi Dench), and “Best Screenplay – Original” (Martin Sherman)

2006 Golden Globes: 3 nominations: “Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy,” “Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture” (Bob Hoskins), and “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Judi Dench)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

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