A veteran high school teacher befriends a younger art teacher, who is having an affair with one of her 15-year-old students. However, her intentions with this new "friend" also go well beyond platonic friendship.
Recently widowed well-to-do Laura Henderson is at a bit of a loose end in inter-war London. On a whim she buys the derelict Windmill theatre in the West End and persuades impresario Vivian Van Damm to run it, despite the fact the two don't seem to get on at all. Although their idea of a non-stop revue is at first a success, other theatres copy it and disaster looms. Laura suggests they put nudes in the show, but Van Damm points out that the Lord Chamberlain, who licenses live shows in Britain, is likely to have something to say about this. Luckily Mrs Henderson is friends with him.Written by
When her husband died, a feisty British dowager named Laura Henderson bought a West End theater called The Windmill, where, for the first time ever in the history of England, nude models appeared live on stage (the nudity could pass legal muster because it was presented strictly in the form of tableaux). These shows quickly became all the rage in Depression Era London, and the theater even became a beacon for morale-boosting through the dark days of the Nazi Blitz. Her cohort was a producer named Vivian Van Damm, whom the flighty Mrs. Henderson took a shine to - on both a personal and professional level - early on.
Stephen Frears' "Mrs. Henderson Presents" is what is generally known in the trade as an "actors' film," one in which the stars are the key to the movie's success. And, indeed, Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins turn in flawless performances that complement one another very nicely. Dench is all stiff-upper-lip, scenery-chewing feistiness, while Hoskins plays the part of her foil with impressive understatement. Moreover, the film is to be commended for not going for the obvious in its portrayal of the relationship between these two very different main characters (Van Damm was married and stayed true to his wife).
The script is clever, sharp and witty, with just the right amount of sentiment thrown in to give the movie the fairy tale quality it needs to succeed. In terms of the sets, cinematography and costume design, the film is a sumptuous, lovely-to-look-at, pitch-perfect re-creation of its time period.
When all is said and done, "Mrs. Henderson Presents" is a lighter-than-air soufflé that is quickly consumed and then forgotten. But it sure gives one a lot of pleasure while it lasts.
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