22 April 2009

DVD: "Mrs. Henderson Presents" - Widescreen Edition

Mrs. Henderson Presents
Directed by Stephen Frears
Written by Martin Sherman
Starring: Judi Dench, Bob Hoskins, Will Young, Christopher Guest, Kelly Reilly, Thelma Barlow, Anna Brewster, Rosalind Halstead, Sarah Solemani, Natalia Tena
DVD Release Date: 25 April 2006
MPAA Rating: R (For Nudity and Brief Language)
List Price: $28.95
Cinescopes Personality Types: Charismatic Performer, Passionate Maverick

The Film
Based upon true events, widow Laura Henderson (Dench) decides to occupy herself by investing in the Windmill Theatre.  Knowing nothing of stage productions, she hires equally strong-willed producer Vivian Van Damme (Hoskins) to run the shows for her.  Though the reviews are favorable, the competition soon copies their shows and Henderson decides to strike back with nude girls.  Finding approval for such a concept in 1930s London is difficult, but she makes it work--up to and through World War II.

The principle cast and crew are all interviewed for a making-of featurette, and director Frears provides a rather uninformative commentary track.  Mostly, his remarks are confined to praise for Dench and Hoskins, and remarks about how several backgrounds were completed digitally ("electronically," he says) without his understanding of how they did it.  Finally, the obligatory original theatrical trailer completes your set of extras.

The Recommendation
The concept behind the Windmill nudity was certainly to pique ticket sales, but was done artfully so as to avoid any semblance of shamelessness.  The nudity in the film conforms to this ideal, so if you're looking for Showgirls, this isn't it.  Frears is absolutely right to praise his two leads, as both Dench and Hoskins are a joy to watch throughout.  The only problem is that the third act is so rushed it feels forced, contrived and empty, and the ending feels as though they simply ran out of time, or decided arbitrarily to just stop telling the story at that point.  Don't look to Frears's commentary for illumination, though--he doesn't say a word about it.

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