03 May 2006
  mrs. henderson presents

okay it's a movie about a bunch of old people. strike one. the cast is mostly composed of naked women. strike two. and it's a *gulp* british comedy. strike three. but that is what is so remarkable about the fact that i actually quite enjoyed dame judi's latest.

john and i went to the independent theater down the street to watch this on oscar weekend. i kept putting off seeing it because it didn't interest me at all, but we finally decided to get it over with, since it was the only nominated movie i hadn't yet seen. the average age of the other theater goers was in the triple digits, and things weren't looking very good right from the start.

don't get me wrong, john and i love the dame (well especially him, but i do enjoy her as well). but it's just that i am not really into old british movies about "the war." and if i were, i probably wouldn't sate my intellectual appetite with dry british humor, rather i would stay at home and watch the non-stop hitler-related programming of the history channel. but as it turns out, mrs. henderson presents isn't a movie about age as much as it is about agelessness and it isn't as much about the war as it is about peace.

that's right, this is one final addition to the past year's relentless parade of antiwar features.

the basic story: the dame's husband dies and (at least partially) to stave off boredom she buys a theater. at first her innovative ideas bring in a lot of customers, but then, after the other local theaters start copying her, business begins sliding downhill. in order to lure in new clientele, she changes the show into a sort of voguing thing starring nude women. when wwii breaks out, and the nazis begin bombing london most of the theaters in the city close, but mrs' henderson keeps her theater open and it becomes a hit with returning soldiers.

for me, this movie works on two levels. first of all, i think the filmmaker is presenting an interesting perspective on the role of women in wartime. it is interesting how the war makes the female roles of mother, wife and lover sort of heroic positions. but, at the same time that it cements these roles as the necessary place of women, the characters in this movie are constantly negotiating within that boundaries of that place, resulting in the evolution of entirely new gender roles. i think it is no small feat that the director of this film was able to make a movie about strippers and turn those women into national symbols, true heroes.

still, on the other hand, this is just a fun movie to watch. the acting is really excellent (dame judi dench, bob hoskins and christopher guest). and the writing is quick and clever, although the story is melodramatic and could easily be the basis of an english telenovela. my favorite parts revolved around the dame's deadpan comedy. hearing her use the word "pudenda" and discuss how her strippers will be shaving their bodies was pretty priceless. nobody else could give such a speech and sound any less sexy (well maybe elizabeth berkeley, but that would be in a different way).

in any case, mrs. henderson came out on dvd last week, so everyone can see what i am talking about. if you like chick flicks and dames then you will definitely enjoy it:)
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