(Release Date: December 09, 2005)
(Premiere Date: September 09, 2005 [Toronto Film Festival - Canada])
That and Naked Women.
In fact I often have to balance my love of Naked Women with my love of Beer. I mean, to have both, one must appreciate the Beer in moderation and never ever put it before a Naked Woman in your priorities. Or a Clothed Woman for that matter, but the words "Naked" and "Woman" fall so trippingly from the tongue when said aloud with a smile that I'm sticking with them. And, as my life is a constant effort to get my wife into bed, there is really only ONE Naked Woman that I'd ever put my hands on. I can look though, and leave my promiscuity restricted to my glass hopping from Schooner to Schooner. Ah, Beer. Naked Women... What a balance!
Balance is the key to Mrs. Henderson Presents, the Oscar-nominated comedy that does Drama better than most of the "serious" fare we have out there. It's amazing how incredibly, raucously funny Mrs. Henderson Presents can be in a completely screwball way, but at the drop of a hat it seamlessly morphs into a tear-jerker without feeling the slightest bit forced or contrived. In short, it's perfectly balanced, and seamlessly blended. Oh, and it's got Naked Women in it too. (And, yeah, Lynelle and I drank beer before we saw it, so... it was PERFECT.)
In addition to being effortlessly funny and deeply dramatic at the flip of a switch (yet never showing a single rough spot), Mrs. Henderson Presents is one of the best acted pieces of 2005. Judi Dench leads the pack as Mrs. Laura Henderson, the recently widowed wife of an English Nobleman who made his living in India. Mrs. Henderson is bored in her pre-World War II London (as her only son preceeded her husband in death during World War I) so she takes the advice of a fellow widow and starts buying things. Most specifically, she buys an old theatre on Windmill Street in which she plans to show musical revues. That is once she's hired the right manager. Through lines funnier than anything you can believe, Henderson lights upon the greatest theatre manager who happens to currently be out of work... Bob Hoskins' Vivian "VD" Van Damm.
Naturally it all goes swimmingly and the stage is set for comedy... until everyone and their bartender starts copying their unique show, and practically puts them out of business. Mrs. Henderson's solution: Naked Women. Really! Vivian Van Damm's response: WORKS FOR ME! My response: WOW, IF I HAD MORE BEER THIS WOULD BE CHRISTMAS!
What follows is a hilarious romp through the planning stages of a musical revue filled with nude chicks that must maintain the highest standards of English Snobbery to be accepted and, well, legal. With a friendly, yet stuffy, Lord Chamberlain like Christopher Guest's "Tommy" Cromer, it's no easy sell. However, Laura Henderson is incredibly smart, incredibly straight forward, incredibly cute and incredibly clever, and so, yes, chicks get naked in the most artistic way possible.
And to make it fair, so do the dudes. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you DO see Bob Hoskins' "Roger Rabbit" (and he IS glad to see you).
Mrs. Henderson Presents is one of the funniest films I've seen and features some of the best lines I've heard in a movie. It's an upper-crust sort of comedy with the kind of shock value that one doesn't mind being shocked by. Hearing aristocratic septuagenarian widows say words like "Titties" and "Pussy" is as classic as it gets. However, when World War II comes around, the film takes a turn for the deadly earnest, and we follow this unclad troop in their pretty performances during actual Nazi Bombing raids (footage of the real thing is used with class and taste here). It's soon that Mrs. Henderson Presents Revudeville becomes "for the boys".
Occasionally at such somber events as Funerals, we have moments where someone makes a joke in remembrance of the dead and many of us might laugh (which is okay) and then immediately get back to our grieving. Imagine the exact opposite (constant laughter with the occasional "okay" break to grieve) and you've got an idea of what Mrs. Henderson Presents feels like.
And such a thing could never be pulled off by actors less than these excellent thespians. Christopher Guest is absolutely perfect in his portrayal of the officious little Lord Chamberlain, balancing his sense of propriety with his desire to do good and nice things. He's also completely moved in unexpected ways when surrounded by hot naked girls. Speaking of hot naked girls, Kelly Reilly's Maureen is another stand out. She's beautiful and is filled with a pathos that does her varied character much justice.
The show is owned by Dench and Hoskins, however, and is at its best in their trading of insults and humorous asides. Hoskins does a magnificent job of the frustrated manager who must deal with Mrs. Henderson's eccentricities, while still showing that hard edge that Mrs. Henderson Resents. The two are incredible together, and have a screen chemistry that you've got to see to believe.
Most amazingly is the sense of complete class this film has about it. Never in the entire run time does Mrs. Henderson Presents get sleazy. Yes, there are comical moments surrounding beautiful naked women and the people who come to oggle them, but this is truly presented in an artistic and flattering fashion. While Ol' Laura's reasons for doing what she's doing may be in questionable taste, depending on that of the viewer, the film itself is most definitely tasteful and classy; and funny and dramatic and the list goes on.
A film this perfectly cast and wonderfully acted, this superbly directed (by Stephen Frears) and this thoroughly well written deserves all of the accolades it gets. And Mrs. Henderson Presents deserves the full FIVE STARS out of Five. Judi Dench is one to watch, in her young and upstart years. Let's hope we get many more years from her that are as good as what we've gotten so far. And let's all hope we have years ahead of us with Beer and Naked Women, and movies that balance such things as well as this one does. Ah, yes... Naked... I'm going to go see what my wife's doing.
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