Based on true events, the script from Martin Sherman has Dench's Laura Henderson unhappy being a widow. Doing charity and needlework isn't how she really wants to occupy her time. Thus, she purchases the Windmill Theatre.
Her manager, Vivian Van Damm, a fine Bob Hoskins of Unleashed, seems to be onto something good having day-long musical revues. However, once everyone else starts doing it, they look to spicing it up in a bawdy "Moulin Rouge" way able to circumvent London's strict censorship rules. Later, this theatre is the only one to stay open as Germany opens up its aerial attack early in WWII.
Though the earlygoing feels a bit too unhurried, there is nuance into history and the people connected to the Windmill. Dench makes her line readings connect with the clever, sometimes unexpected occurrences Frears (Dirty Pretty Things, Dangerous Liasons) has in store for this ideal arthouse romp.
Dench has more than a prickly edge to endow Laura and their are some funny one-liners, especially with Hoskins, whose Van Damm she hardly complements. Yet, one realizes the true feelings behind the words.
Underneath Dench and Hopkins, Kelly Reilly shows pluck as a new tableau young lady in the nude revue and Christopher Guest (Best in Show) is amusing as a censor dealing with the frustrations that go along with it.
If Mrs. Henderson Presents isn't terribly effective fr! om a narrative standpoint, Frears and his production staff are able to mainstain a feisty, if realistic mood from the effects to the stage productions. The camerawork capturing Piccadilly Circus at the outset is especially well done.
While Dench and Hoskins would be very welcome under the likes of George Cukor or Billy Wilder with their banter, the editing proves valuable from archival footage with Hitler and the tensions of Londoners just beginning to be alluded to in Being Julia. So, there is something else from England this holiday season that is worth a look that goes beyond fond recollections of Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy as stage beauties help many combat a depressed state.