Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. United Kingdom, 2005. Pathe Pictures, BBC Films, Future Films, Micro Fusion, The Weinstein Company, UK Film Council, Heyman-Hoskins Productions, Mrs. Henderson Productions Ltd., Pathe Pictures International. Screenplay by Martin Sherman, idea by David Rose, Kathy Rose,based on the book by Sheila van Damm. Cinematography by Andrew Dunn. Produced by Norma Heyman. Music by George Fenton. Production Design by Hugo Luczyc-Wyshowski. Costume Design by Sandy Powell. Film Editing by Lucia Zucchetti. Academy Awards 2005. Golden Globe Awards 2005. Toronto International Film Festival 2005.
A delightfully ditzy, wealthy widow (Judi Dench at her finest) in pre-World War II Britain has the doldrums when her husband’s death leaves her without a hobby. Sad attempts at crocheting and charity work don’t pan out, so she spends her money on a little London theatre and turns it into a burlesque sensation for all the city to enjoy. Dench’s personality is a fiery tempest with a deceptively sweet nature, while her theatre’s manager (Bob Hoskins, who executive produces) is an equally feisty gentleman, making for a deliciously volatile relationship at the centre of this candy-coloured concoction. It’s not the most impressive film you’ve ever seen, and its attempts at being dramatic or philosophical in the third act don’t really come to full fruition, but it is great fun, with beautiful costumes by Sandy Powell and a tuneful score that kicks the film into life every time the girls take to the stage and sing a song. The cast does excellent work, director Stephen Frears keeps it at a dizzy pace, and Dench is a marvel to behold; her speech to the crowds outside the Windmill about throwing caution to the wind is one of her most precious moments ever committed to film.