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5 reviews, 13 user ratings

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Mrs. Henderson Presents
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by Robert Flaxman

"Turn to page 27 in your Brit-com handbook."
3 stars

If you like your films to come with little in the way of character development, a perfunctory plot, self-consciously witty banter, and plenty of gratuitous musical numbers, then Mrs. Henderson Presents might just be your movie of the year. Pretty much defining the word “inoffensive,” Stephen Frears’ film is an adequate but wholly undistinguished way to pass two hours.

Mrs. Henderson Presents bounces from plot point to plot point for most of its run, not concerning itself overly with doing much in between. The first part of the film, in particular, feels like a rush job intended solely to get the titular Mrs. Henderson (Judi Dench) into possession of the Windmill Theatre. Once she’s acquired it, she hires a manager – Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins) – based largely on the fact that he doesn’t like her.

Only in a droll British comedy could “we don’t get along” be considered a solid qualification for working together, but, unsurprisingly, the movie milks their bickering for all it’s worth. Having been recently widowed, Mrs. Henderson develops something of an affection for Van Damm, which is mostly used to provide a tiny bit of dramatic tension and nothing else. When Van Damm suddenly produces his wife at opening night of the theatre, Mrs. Henderson goes off in a huff, leading to an argument between the two – but it ends soon enough and the wife is never mentioned again.

In general, that’s how the movie goes. Once the show is mounted, most pretense of a plot goes out the window. Instead we’re treated to any number of musical performances, with a few hints of plot seeming more to fill in the gaps than anything else. Frears settles for quick-hit character development, but about the only person who changes throughout the entire movie is Mrs. Henderson, and even her change is slight.

In some respects, the film feels like a movie trailer stretched to feature length. Anything dramatic has to be condensed into a short scene, while the music – and the nudity – goes on around it. The sometimes jarring cuts don’t help – Mrs. Henderson Presents subscribes to the theory that when you’ve had enough of a scene but you don’t feel a need to finish its story, it’s okay just to skip ahead and leave the resolution implicit. This can work, depending on the film, but in this one it’s more awkward than anything. We learn approximately as much about any of the characters as we would in a trailer – it’s almost impressive that at 110 minutes, the film tells us virtually nothing about more than two of the characters (Henderson and Van Damm, of course). What little else we do learn has to be doled out in clumsy expository dialogue.

However, the whole affair stays perfectly watchable throughout. Mrs. Henderson Presents may not be anything particularly special – and it’s not – but it’s certainly nothing terrible. Dench and Hoskins are winning with their repartee, and while the supporting actors are given much less to do, they fill in just fine. In particular, Will Young is perfectly charming in his first film role – he’s mostly asked to sing, which he does well, but he has a few snappy lines as well. Overall, the generally first-rate acting helps keep things running smoothly through the rougher patches, and distracts a bit from the plot’s weakest moments.

Mrs. Henderson Presents is utterly conventional, through and through, but sometimes that’s all people are looking for. It is not a superlative entertainment, nor is it the pinnacle of filmmaking excellence, but it is just cute enough to get by on its charm. Sometimes, a passably entertaining film will do just fine.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12873&reviewer=385
originally posted: 02/07/06 01:06:37
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Chicago Film Festival For more in the 2005 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Austin Film Festival For more in the 2005 Austin Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

5/05/08 David Cohen Like Anuntie Mame: If mame were an unlikeable vulgarian 2 stars
3/19/07 David Pollastrini Some hot women in this! 3 stars
12/06/06 chienne A charming, funny film. Enough to stick it up the upper class. BH looking quite dapper. 4 stars
9/13/06 Patrick Petty a charmng period pace. Dame Judy never disappoints 4 stars
2/03/06 jcjss wonderful, touching, smart, great acting, fine musical and tribute to 'the stage etc. 5 stars
1/03/06 john bale Dench and Hoskins at their best in nostalgic loving look at the Windmill Theatre 4 stars
12/28/05 Mo Baxter Excellent movie, great fun. Will Young's singing captured the era perfectly. 5 stars
12/28/05 barbara briggs absolutley fantastic,especially WILL YOUNG(BERTIE) 5 stars
12/28/05 Gill Proudfoot This is a wonderful film! Judi Dench, Bob Hoskins are all outstanding. 5 stars
12/22/05 Helen Bradley Not to be missed great entertainment 5 stars
9/29/05 E. Northam Frears captures the tone & style of the era; teaming of Dench/Hoskins most entertaining 4 stars
9/12/05 bankrbear Wonderful prduction first rate cast that truly sparkles 5 stars
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  09-Dec-2005 (R)
  DVD: 18-Apr-2006



Directed by
  Stephen Frears

Written by
  Martin Sherman

  Judi Dench
  Will Young
  Christopher Guest
  Bob Hoskins
  Anna Brewster
  Kelly Reilly

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