It felt like a meeting of the Judi Dench Fan Club at the screening I attended of Mrs. Henderson Presents. Every time Dame Judi opened her mouth, which was quite often, the crowd erupted in laughter. And I only wish I could have joined them. She certainly has a way with a one-liner, belting it to the balcony in that imperious voice with which she's impersonated Queens Victoria and Elizabeth. The problem is, that's the only way she has with a one-liner. There's little nuance or variation in her delivery, just perfect pronunciation and rather brilliant timing.
That carried me along for a while. "Inspired by true events," Mrs. Henderson Presents is the story of an aristocratic dowager who, back in the '30s and '40s, took over the Windmill Theatre in London's West End and turned it into a somewhat racy vaudeville house. Nudity was the main attraction, although the models had to hold their poses, tableaux-vivant style, lest the censors shut down the show. And somehow, if the movie is to be believed, this got all wrapped up in the war effort. As German bombs obliterated the city, Mrs. Henderson reminded everybody what they were fighting for.
Setting The Full Monty during England's finest hour isn't such a bad idea, but director Stephen Frears and scriptwriter Martin Sherman don't seem to know what to do with their titillating premise. Bob Hoskins appears as Vivian Van Damm, the impresario whom Mrs. Henderson hired to run the theater, and much is made of the fact that these two didn't get along, but we're never shown why they didn't get along. Nor are we shown ' and there has to have been one ' the darker side of removing one's clothes for the Allied cause. These have to be the most patriotic breasts in the history of film.