Mrs Henderson Presents

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Review byMatthew Turner14/11/2005

Three out of five stars
Running time: 103 mins

Crowd-pleasing musical drama from Stephen Frears, featuring an Oscar-baiting performance from Judi Dench.

The Background
Mrs Henderson Presents is a BBC co-production, which means that it will almost certainly be on television within the year, although it’ll have to be on fairly late, because the sight of a naked Bob Hoskins is definitely not for the easily-startled.

The Story
The film is based on a true story and set in 1937. It stars Judi Dench as Laura Henderson, a wealthy widow who decides that charity work and needlepoint are all very well but what she really wants to do is to own a theatre. She buys the derelict Windmill Theatre in London’s glittering West End and hires Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins) as her artistic director.

Pretty soon the Windmill is the talk of the town, with its round-the-clock musical revue shows. However, it isn’t long before all the other theatres in London are following suit, so Laura comes up with an even bigger crowd-pleaser: round-the-clock musical revues featuring tableau nudity, thereby escaping Britain’s censorship laws.

The Bad
Martin Sherman’s script presents a genuinely fascinating slice of history, enlivened with some catchy songs, some imaginatively staged dance numbers and, oh yes, lots of naked flesh. However, there isn’t really much of a plot. The first nude revue occurs within half an hour and there’s nowhere left for the film to go after that, beyond war breaking out and the theatre earning its reputation for never closing during the Blitz.

The Good
That said, it’s all very enjoyable to watch. Dench can do this sort of role in her sleep, but she’s clearly having a whale of a time and it’s a treat to see her let loose with some of the film’s saucier lines – she’ll almost certainly pick up yet another Oscar nomination. Hoskins is extremely good too and there’s a surprisingly effective Hepburn-Tracy vibe between the two leads, largely thanks to their endless bickering.

The Conclusion
In short, Mrs Henderson Presents is an enjoyable drama with a witty script, some imaginative musical numbers and superb performances from its cast. Worth seeing then, although anyone not wishing to see Bob Hoskins’ crown jewels would be well-advised to look away during the We’ll strip off if you strip off scene. You have been warned.

Film Trailer

Mrs Henderson Presents
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Content updated: 16/10/2019 18:50

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