A review of “Mrs. Henderson Presents” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: **

Rating: Rated R for frontal nudity and mild sexuality

Run Time: 1 hour, 42 minutes

 

 

          Dame Judi Dench headlines this English World War II era comedy that can’t or won’t settle on a consistent theme.

          Laura Henderson (Dench) is a newly widowed matron with plenty of money and nothing but time on her hands. Determined to find a dazzling hobby Mrs. Henderson impulsively purchases an old theater with the intention of mounting an old-fashioned revue. 

          Mrs. Henderson hires bon vivant theater manager Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins) to take the reins of the Windmill Theater and they’re off to the races. Now if the two could only get along.

          The revue is an instant success but the thrill is short-lived as the turbulent political situation takes its toll on ticket sales. Henderson and Van Damm need more than vigor and enthusiasm to fill the Windmill. When all else fails…take your clothes off! 

          The nude revue is a sensation the likes of which London has never seen. The onset of war only serves to heighten the show’s burgeoning popularity and audience’s desire for a titillating distraction.

          Mrs. Henderson’s charming eccentricities and an amusing odd couple sensibility turn churlish and petty when a thwarted romance is introduced; ditto a tragic wartime love for the revue’s biggest star. As the story’s disjointed perspective widens the energy dwindles and the film loses focus.

          I expect a lot from Dench; she is undeniably one of her generation’s most gifted performers. But her Mrs. Henderson isn’t much of a stretch; frankly she could play it in her sleep. Hoskins does smooth with surprising finesse but can’t make up for the lack of energy that ultimately disappoints.