Mrs. Henderson Presents
If ever a movie feels born to be damned with faint praise, it is Stephen Frears’ Mrs. Henderson Presents. Too polite to address significantly its themes of censorship and mortality, too stiff-upper-lippy to ever break an emotional sweat, its existence is justified entirely by giving Judi Dench a chance to be acerbic. The grande dame plays the titular upper-class London widow who buys a dilapidated West End theater and hires imperious theater entrepreneur Vivian Van Dam (Bob Hoskins), who inaugurates a nonstop vaudeville show that financial need updates to a 24/7 nude review. Cue stuffy Lord Cromer (Christopher Guest), with whom Henderson finagles a deal that stipulates that nudity is OK as long as the nudes don’t move. Cut to the Blitz, which allows Henderson a chance to advise a showgirl (Kelly Reilly) tragically in love with a soldier and many a rather nonlethal bombing to underline the movie’s Show Must Go On-ism. The only reason to order this from Netflix next month is to enjoy Dench and Hoskins’ horn-locking and to ogle costumer Sandy Powell’s gorgeous 1940s styles. The thorny Frears of Prick Up Your Ears and Dirty Pretty Things, to name just two, is completely missing from this agreeable but tepid indulgence.