Urban Cinefile
"I've been this phoney fucking Yank or Irishman for years, and this is just heaven"  -Rod Taylor on his role as the very Aussie Daddy-O in Welcome to Woop Woop
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Friday April 20, 2018 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



When Mrs Laura Henderson (Judi Dench) is widowed in 1937, she's soon bored - until she sees an old London theatre that's for sale, in Old Windmill Street. She buys it and hires Vivan Van Damm (Bob Hoskins) to run it for her, as a music hall venue, featuring tastefully choreographed nude girls. Things go well, despite their personality clash, and when World War II breaks out a couple of years later, The Windmill remains open even through the air raids, much to the appreciation of the soldiers on leave from the front. Threatened with closure by the authorities, Mrs Henderson steps up on a soap box and defends her much loved hobby.

Review by Louise Keller:
A richly satisfying film about a wealthy widow's foray into vaudeville, Mrs Henderson Presents is funny, touching and involving. Filled with delicious lines and intricate relationships, director Stephen Frears guides this British period piece set just before the outbreak of World War II as smoothly as a ripe piece of French brie is washed down by a good glass of red wine.

Performances are spot on, with Judi Dench delighting in her every moment as the child-like elderly dame with the contagious sense of fun and daring, countered by Bob Hoskins as the down-to-earth theatre manager. They throw barbs at each other non-stop throughout their prickly relationship, yet always retain the formality of calling each other Mrs Henderson and Mr Van Damm (or Mr Damm Van). They are like an old married couple who irritate each other constantly, but are inexplicably drawn to one another. It is this push-me pull-me relationship that is the film's gold nugget. Kelly Reilly makes an indelible mark as the blonde with the perfect bosom who finds baring her body is a remedy to her aversion for intimacy.

Mrs Henderson buys the Windmill Theatre as a spoilt child would a toy. There's unashamed glee in her voice, when she tells her friend they are about to audition talent for their first show. 'We say stick around or buzz off,' she smiles. Her notion to break boundaries and use nudity in the shows is presented so innocently, and she bosses Christopher Guest's Lord Chamberlain around as if he were a naughty boy. The casting process ('we need British nipples') is highly amusing as are the unorthodox methods used to entice inexperienced showgirls into displaying their bodies for 'art'.

The stakes suddenly become higher as World War II erupts and when frivolity turns the corner, our laughter quickly changes to tears. Our emotions are precariously balanced on the edge as bombs fall and the threat to close the theatre is real. Mrs Henderson Presents is one of those genuinely uplifting films that will add a skip to your step. The fact that it's based on a true story also adds to the experience.

Published May 4, 2006

Email this article

(UK, 2005)

CAST: Judi Dench, Bob Hoskins, Will Young, Kelly Reilly, Thelma Barlow, Christopher Guest

PRODUCER: Laurie Borg, Norma Heyman

DIRECTOR: Stephen Frears

SCRIPT: Martin Sherman

EDITOR: Lucia Zucchetti

MUSIC: George Fenton

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Hugo Luczyc-Wyhowski

RUNNING TIME: 103 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 26, 2005 (special advance screenings December 16, 17, 18)




DVD RELEASE: May 3, 2006

Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2018