Recently widowed well-to-do Mrs. Laura Henderson (Dame Judi Dench) is at a bit of a loose end in inter-war London. On a whim, she buys the derelict Windmill theatre in the West End and persuades impresario Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins) to run it, despite the fact the two don’t seem to get along at all. Although their idea of a non-stop revue is at first a success, other theatres copy it and disaster looms. Laura suggests they put nudes in the show, but Van Damm points out that the Lord Chamberlain, Lord Rowland Baring, 2nd Earl of Cromer (Christopher Guest), who licenses live shows in Britain, is likely to have something to say about this. Luckily, Mrs. Henderson is friends with him.
User Reviews: I cannot believe how badly this lovely film has been savaged on IMDb.
Apart from spectacular vaudeville staging, Judi Dench plays her eccentric, mischievous widow to perfection and the excellent Bob Hoskins is cast surprisingly out of type as a reserved, rather complex, gentlemanly but iron-willed theatre manager. Their argumentative relationship is amusing without being overbearing, as the film is essentially a nicely balanced ensemble piece. Dench’s character Laura Henderson turns out to have a very touching motivation for her desire to stage daring musicals for brave young men off to war. Will Young gives an astonishingly strong vocal performance throughout. His mannered vocal style is perfect, and he looks every inch the part on stage. His few brief moments of acting are nothing to blush over either. Kelly Reilly, the star of the naked girlie reviews, is quite simply mesmerising to watch, and ultimately her character is full of pathos.
And if none of that were enough to engage you, you’ve got an interesting wartime plot, based on true events in the history of the Windmill Theatre, which in current circumstances feels highly topical and relevant for Londoners. 9/10