Saturday, March 04, 2006

FILM: Mrs. Henderson Presents

This evening we saw Mrs. Henderson Presents (for which Dame Judi Dench is nominated for a Best Actress Oscar). The film tells a very entertaining story about a marvelously flambuoyant character who financed a musical review to keep up spirits in London during World War II. Mrs. Henderson is a very wealthy upper-class widow who says and does just about anything she wants and doesn't care what anyone thinks. On a whim, she buys an abandoned West End theatre, fixes it up, and hires theatrical producer Vivian Van Dam (Bob Hoskins) to launch a musical review. When the attendance starts to sag and they need to do something daring, Mrs. Henderson suggests "let's get rid of the clothes". Things become a bit more serious when the Germans start bombing London, but Mrs. Henderson insists that the show must go on. The story is unusual and engaging in its exploration of the prickly relationship between Mrs. Henderson and Van Dam, who are both intrigued and irritated by one another, but ultimately find a mutual respect. The performances of Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins are both outstanding. Mrs. Henderson is completely frivolous and shameless, as only the extremely wealthy can be, but she has some hidden depth that the story reveals touching glimpses of, and we come to see how even someone of her position is not immune from the ravages of war. When the air raids come, there is a great sequence of cuts between vintage clips of the blitz and the audience and performers at the Windmill Theatre hesitantly and then valiantly continuing a performance interrupted by bomb blasts and power flickers. London's darkest hour, and the storied spirit of the Brits in facing it, is nicely portrayed here, and shows that during such times, entertainment is not a frivolous business and may even be a vital one. This film offers a healthy dose of laughter, seasoned with some touching and inspiring moments.

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