The Junk Food of Writing

Monday, February 20, 2006

Not quite the update you were probably hoping for.


Oh dear, what have we done?

I would write something on Mrs Henderson Presents if I remembered anything; it is a film with the rare ability to completely evaporate from the audience's memory the moment they reach the bathroom for their post-show toilet break. Perhaps that would be an ideal time to accomplish two tasks at once and puke at what you just spent money on. I was not expecting a fantastic film from Mrs. Henderson Presents, just a charming trifle to fill a Sunday matinee and complete my Oscar obligation. It did not start out poorly, just the usually British antics with the occasional witty one-liners and horny old-women (to establish itself as a piquant little production? right?). Soon it downwoard spirals into something I never expected: a smug, annoyingly self-righteous and mind-numbingly mediocre film.

The central relationship between the saucy Mrs Henderon and uptight Bob Hoskins (his character's name is lost on me at the moment -- what a shocker) which is meant to contain amusing moments of silly "trivial bickering," but I would say "irritatingly useless" moments of faux-witty banter. For some odd reason (lazy screenwriting, maybe?), the plot relies on these repetitive and random moments of snarky bitching (and don't even get me started on the "love story" which is almost forced upon the audience a few times).

I suppose Judi Dench would be the only reasons anyone would approach this production, so you want to hear about her Oscar-nominated performance. Well, it is effortless to the point of being bland; she is just as tiresome as the production. I blame the script for her phoned-in performance and failing to give her anything to really sink her crooked teeth into. The film has an obsession with constantly establishing the audacity of Mrs. Henderson, but the "look-how-funny-it-is-that-an-old-hag-just-said-that" gags are overused after the first occasion (which is unfortunate, due to the initial whiff of wit). Mrs. Henderson is also not given the chance to be developed until the manipulative denoument which sloppily spills the previously-absent subtext all over the place.

Essentially Calender Girls crossed with Being Julia, Mrs. Henderson Presents is a lowbrow picture for the "high-brow" crowd, and I am more than shocked by how many have bought into its frivilous and derivative nonsense. Sure, mammory glands are fun to watch for an hour, but substance is generally used to fill the space around the gorgeous curves of the exposed women. It attempts to add some poignancy when WWII breaks out; World War II was not only bad for history, but also bad for this film.

The sheer ephemerality of the production was likely a device the filmmakers must have cleverly used so that its cast and crew would not suffer from extreme low self-esteem after sitting through the premiere screening. It kept Bob Hoskins from commiting suicide, so respect it for that. C-

Postscript: I cannot help but notice the irony of Christopher Guest's presence. With Waiting for Guffman, he knew how to mock and pay homage to the stage, and most importantly --- make a good movie. Oh, and I realize that the sheer length of this post negates my first sentence, but my fingers just kept typing with passionate disgust.

2 Comments:

  • I know what you mean about Mrs Henderson -- it's hardly brimming with the substance. And the whole war plotline is fairly dreadful. But I found myself really charmed and entertained by the relationship between Dench and Hoskins, especially in the first half of the film. Judi delivers every line perfectly.

    By Blogger Cal, at 5:27 AM  

  • Entertaining review (like I've always said, you're hilarious when you hate something), but I don't think you give enough credit to Dench. She is pretty much the only saving grace of this otherwise empty film (Phoned in? Pish!). I didn't love her work to the point of supporting the Oscar nod, but I was cracking up at her delivery like a 14-year-old watching Scary Movie.

    "Crooked teeth"? Ouch.

    By Blogger Ali, at 12:43 PM  

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