Monday 20th March 2006
by Philip Ellwood
Once in a while a British film comes out that claims to be the next 'Full Monty'. Usually the film doesn't deserve such praise but 'Mrs Henderson Presents' is an exception. The film is a delightful tale of wealthy widow, Mrs Henderson (Judi Dench), who buys a theatre on a whim. She employs a top manager, Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins) and the pair decide to put on a series of risque performances featuring nude girls for the entertainment of young men fighting in World War II. Unfortunately for Mrs Henderson, nude girls aren't considered art and the theatre is threatened with closure as the war escalates.
'Mrs Henderson Presents' truly is a delightful film. The chemistry between Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins is the main strength of the film. Their catfighting, arguments and tender moments are the foundation for the entire film. Dench's performance, as always, is a tour-de-force and she is frequently hilarious. Some of her best moments on screen are with fellow widow, Lady Conway (ex-Coronation Street star Thelma Barlow). Lady Conway takes upon herself to teach Mrs Henderson how to be a proper widow. When both characters are on screen the result if often hilarious.
The supporting cast do a great job. Kelly Reilly puts in a breakthrough performance as central showgirl Maureen. Her character is the most developed of all of the showgirls and she has the most emotionally involving story. The film also boasts the acting debut of the original Pop Idol, Will Young as Bertie. Young's role is fairly small but he does show signs of being an able actor. For a debut his performance is fine and his comic timing is spot on.
For a 12 certificate there is a lot of nudity but it's all done with a tongue firmly placed in the cheek and it's all very tasteful. Pretty much all of the cast shed their clothes at some point, even Bob Hoskins, and it looks like they had a lot of fun doing it.
The DVD has a few extras but it would have been nice to have more. The 'Making Of' and TV spots do provide extra value and the minimal extras don't detract from the film.
'Mrs Henderson Presents' is a great way to spend a couple of hours. The cast performances are universally great and Stephen Frears' direction ensures a top quality production.