Release Date: December 9th, 2005 (NYC-Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas) by The Weinstein Company.
The Cast: Judi Dench, Bob Hoskins, Will Young, Kelly Reilly.
Directed by Stephen Frears.
BASIC PREMISE: Upon her husband’s death, Laura Henderson (Dench) opens The Windmill, a London theater with nude musical performances, along with Vivian Van Damm (Hoskins) as the manager. Based on a true story.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: With its stylish, animated opening credits set to a musical number, you know that you’re in for a very lively, refreshing ride for the rest of the film. Judi Dench, dazzling as always, lights up every single scene as Laura Henderson. She has brilliant comic timing during the many outrageously funny scenes, many of them involving the on-going joke of nudity in musical theater. Just listen to the unique way she delivers her lines along with her facial expressions like when she says, “Why, Mr.Van Damm, you are Jewish!”. The superbly-written script balances comedy and drama surprisingly well as Vivian Van Damm (or Damm Van, as she prefers it) joins her quest to open the theater. They often argue with one another, but, that’s not as big of a problem as Lord Chamberlin (Guest), a censor who requires that the nude performers must stand completely still or else the production must be cancelled. Although the setting is during the start of World War II, the impact of the war doesn’t really come into place until later in the second act. Fortunately, the Windmill theater is underground, so the show goes on. Everything from the costumes to setting design to the music is all very impressive and Oscar-worthy. Just when you fear Mrs.Henderson Presents will turn melodramatic in the third act, Mrs.Henderson gives some well-needed, humorous speeches to enliven things up and, most importantly, to make you laugh-out-loud without insulting your intelligence.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: There’s a thought-provoking discussion about the difference between nudity depicted in art (like in the classic “Venus di Milo” painting) versus traditional live nudity. According to the censor, live nudity would not be pornographic if the performers were to stand still like in paintings. This debate about the sensitivity of nakedness was ongoing throughout the history of art—at one point, the “Venus di Milio” was even considered to be pornographic. At one point, Mrs.Henderson says a quip about Americans: “Strange people, good manners”—although the line would have been a little more effective the other way around as “Good manners, strange people”. In fact, much of Mrs.Henderson Presents is filled these kinds of witty, light-hearted quips. Despite all of their arguing, she and Van Damm are madly in love and, in the moving third act, you can really feel. Fortunately, the enchanting musical numbers will lift your spirits so that by the end of this delightful film, you will surely have a smile on your face.
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: None.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 0
THE BOTTOM LINE: Joyous, refreshing, and hilarious! Judi Dench is simply dazzling! It has Oscar written all over it!
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (1st Run)
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