Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

Mar 1, 2006

Mrs. Henderson Presents

Watching this movie tonight, I could just imagine a storm of criticism descending on it, containing words like frivolous, smutty, and unrealistic. I, however, am not going to criticize it. Instead, I'm going to explain why I liked it, and hopefully you'll see it yourself and agree.

Set in Britain during the brief hiatus between world wars (and continuing into the early stages of the second), Mrs. Henderson Presents is about a wealthy old widow that decides to purchase a theater and put on a risque new show featuring nude women.

The character of Mrs. Henderson, wonderfully played by Judi Dench, conveys the essence of what, in the best of times, it means to be an old woman. Having experienced the full of life, its joys and sorrows, its rich pagentry, she has gained a simple, earthy sort of wisdom. Bereft of ties to restrain her, she is free of fear and doubt; she does exactly what she wants to do, no more, and no less.

Although the movie may seem to be about an old woman amusing herself, it really isn't. Nor is it the kind of political statement that seems to have become popular lately: that tawdry smut is groundbreaking art. The nudes are portrayed in static poses that are not smutty or cheap but lovely and elevating. Free speech is, amazingly, never brought up.

So what is the movie about? Simply, it's about naming what is really important in life, and startlingly, it gets the answer exactly right. What's really important in life is joy and beauty and the sheer wonder of living. It is so precious that it cannot be yielded to either prudish attitudes or Adolf Hitler.

I challenge you to call that frivolous.

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