Magazine article Newsweek

Judi, Judi, Judi! the Divine Ms. D Delivers. 'Mrs. Henderson Presents' 12/9

Magazine article Newsweek

Judi, Judi, Judi! the Divine Ms. D Delivers. 'Mrs. Henderson Presents' 12/9

Article excerpt

A 69-year-old widowed English aristocrat with a tongue as tart as an adder's and a contempt for the stuffy propriety of '30s London that's facilitated by her sense of noblesse oblige, Laura Henderson (Judi Dench) is based on a real woman. Moviegoers, however, will recognize her as a not-so-distant relative of Auntie Mame. How we love these feisty old renegades! Rather than settle into the conventional pastimes of widowhood, the imperious Mrs. Henderson buys herself a theater in Soho called The Windmill, hires old-pro manager Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins)--decidedly not "one of her own"--and comes up with the shocking notion of putting on musical revues that feature live nude girls onstage--in artful tableaux, mind you, with private parts cleverly concealed.

Filled with musical production numbers, a hint of a geriatric romance between Mrs. H and Mr. Van Damm and patriotic World War II sentiments, "Mrs. Henderson Presents" is a shameless crowd-pleaser. It's not the sort of movie one expects from Stephen Frears, who's made a fine career ("My Beautiful Laundrette," "Dirty Pretty Things") rebelling against this sort of cozily Anglophilic entertainment. That said, he's damn good at it. As he showed in his stylish "Dangerous Liaisons" and his jaunty film noir "The Grifters," Frears can do flamboyant theatricality as well as urban grit. "Mrs. Henderson Presents," which uses the actual song lyrics from the original Windmill Theatre, set to new music composed by George Fenton, makes one curious to see what Frears could do with a full-scale musical. …

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