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Mrs. Henderson Presents

Genre: Comedy
Rated: R
Directed by
Released by: Universal Studios

In Short: Judi Dench proves again that there is nothing like a Dame, in this delicious romp set in Blitz-era London.

Lithesome Ladies and Stiff Upper Lips
God Bless You, Please, Mrs. Henderson
By Andrew Bender

Oh dear. What ever is an elderly woman of the landed gentry to do once her husband passes on? Torment the servants? Collect ever larger diamonds? Join a charity board? Embroider? No, darling, none of these will suffice for Laura Henderson (Judi Dench), and when she purchases a defunct London theater, polite society thinks she’s gone stark-raving mad.

Mrs. Henderson hires ruddy yet refined theater impresario Mr. van Damm (Bob Hoskins), and together they produce a song and dance revue that promptly shuffles toward financial doom. That is, until Mrs. Henderson suggests that some of the female performers take the stage stark, uh, something else. OK, we’ll say it: naked. But this is the late 1930s, when a glimpse of stocking really was something shocking, so the show is nudity as art—the models stand as still as sculptures.

Nonetheless, the show becomes as popular as it is provocative, and patriotic, too, as young soldiers flock for a last glimpse of English beauty before heading off to fight the Nazis. Moreover, the theater becomes a focal point for Londoners, a shelter during the Blitz and a symbol of an England that would nevah surrendah.

Based on a true story, the film has been receiving all kinds of award nominations, and no wonder. Dench clearly has a ball with this role, and to paraphrase Mrs. Henderson, it is simply delicious to watch her and Hoskins as they bicker, which is constantly. The zing-a-minute dialog made us want to read the script pronto, the musical numbers are frothy and the costumes are spot-on (or is it spot-off?).

Unlikely as it may seem, “Mrs. Henderson” has a good deal in common with Playboy magazine. You might be drawn in by the pictures, but you’ll probably end up enjoying it just as much for the writing.

(Publilshed: 01/12/06)

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