Directed by: Stephen Frears
Written by:Martin Sherman
Starring: Judi Dench, Bob Hoskins, Will Young, Kelly Reilly, Christopher Guest
Released: December 26, 2005
Grade: B+

Laura Henderson (Dench) is bored.  Her husband recently passed away and widowhood isn’t as entertaining as she thought it would be.  A friend suggests she find a hobby, such as embroidery.  Instead, the wealthy Mrs Henderson buys a run-down theatre.  She knows she has no idea what she’s doing but it will not stop this stubborn old lady.

Through one of her many acquaintances, Laura finds the experienced Vivian Van Damm (Hoskins) to manage the theatre.  The terms of their agreement give Vivian full artistic control but Laura has the right to offer suggestions which she does on many, many occasions.  They bicker like a married couple but as a team, they turned the rundown Windmill Theatre into one of the hottest attractions on West End.

Their success was nudity.  With every other theatre in London showing the same shows, Mrs Henderson took inspiration from the Moulin Rogue in Paris.  Using her sway to obtain permission from the government, Mrs Henderson presented what everyone wanted – topless women.  As World War II commenced, the Windmill became one of the few happy refuges from the trouble world around them.

Based on actual events, Mrs Henderson Presents comes with plenty of English charm.  The story struggles to get going at times but the delightful Judi Dench (Mrs Brown) steals the show every time she is on screen.  Mrs Henderson has no sense of reality and her silly, outlandish statements provide many laughs (particularly in the early stages).  Unknown outside Britain for much of her 40 year acting career, Dench’s worldwide stardom has flourished in the past decade with an abundance of great performances in great roles.  If she earns an Academy Award nomination for her work here (which she is tipped to do), it will be her fifth trip to the Oscars in the past nine years.  No other actor catch match that.

With plenty of films being released over the Christmas break here in Australia, Mrs Henderson Presents will suit more mature tastes.  I should warn you that the funniest scene in the film involves full frontal nudity from Bob Hoskins.  That’s the first time I’ve ever used “funniest”, “nude” and “Bob Hoskins” in the same sentence.  My hat goes off to him.