Basic premise: Mrs. Henderson (Judi Dench) has recently been widowed. She and her friend discuss what she's going to do now, and the friend points out that now that she's unmarried she can get away with buying things. While driving around town one day, Laura Henderson finds the perfect thing to buy - the Windmill Theatre.
She knows nothing about show business, so she hires Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins) - who is called "V.D." by his secretary and "Damm Van" by Laura - to run it for her. The theatre is a hit and soon revitalizes the entire neighborhood, but a lot more theatres pop up around town and the Windmill starts to lose money.
So Laura suggests that they have shows that feature nude girls. She must get approval for this, of course, from the Lord Chamberlain. He agrees, as long as the girls don't move at all. A bit of a snag, but workable. The search for the girls is a fairly interesting little plot, and soon enough they find five or six girls willing to disrobe onstage. The shows begin, and are naturally a huge success.
Like many of the movies I find myself falling in love with, this one is not what it seems at first. The first half of it is quintissential naughty British comedy. Judi Dench saying the "p" word is absolutely hysterical. But it's easy to forget that during all this World War 2 is going on. The film reminds you about halfway in, and from there on out it's quite a different story.
Laura's decision to start a nude review is not a whim. There is a very specific reason behind it, and while it may seem obscene, her motives are quite sweet and even admirable. And that's what gives the movie its juice, what makes you leave the theatre thinking about it. I really, really enjoyed this movie and it got me thinking about the use of nudity and sexuality in entertainment. But that's for another post. ;)