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The studied British theatricality and sharp wit of Stephen Frears's comedy are likely to make it a favorite among nostalgists, theater buffs, and the tea-and-crumpets set. Sailing along on the strength of another showy performance by Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love), this is the real-life story of an imperious widow who, after burying her husband in 1936, forgoes prolonged grief in favor of sinking his leftover millions into a decrepit London theater, where she mounts the city's first nudie revue. As a celebration of theater-world eccentricity and English pluck in wartime, the film hits all of its marks, well-worn though they be. Bob Hoskins is outstanding as the title character's comic foil, a stylish impresario named Vivian Van Damm, with whom Dench exchanges acerbic insults. All in all, it's Being Julia for 2005.

Now playing at selected local theaters.


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