×

The Last of the Blonde Bombshells

Produced by Working Title, makers of "Four Weddings and a Funeral," "The Last of the Blonde Bombshells" looks, feels and sounds like an English indie you'd be more likely to see on the Sundance Channel than HBO. Filled with a sense of nostalgia and laced with period tunes, pic stars the always feisty Judi Dench as a widow looking back on her wartime youth in an all-girl swing band. But despite delightful performances from a star-studded cast, the film's thoroughly predictable storyline and low-key charm are ultimately more a sedative than a tonic.

With:
Elizabeth - Judi Dench Patrick - Ian Holm Dinah - Olympia Dukakis Madeline - Leslie Caron Gwen - Cleo Laine Betty - Joan Sims Evelyn - Billie Whitelaw Annie - June Whitfield

Produced by Working Title, makers of “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “The Last of the Blonde Bombshells” looks, feels and sounds like an English indie you’d be more likely to see on the Sundance Channel than HBO. Filled with a sense of nostalgia and laced with period tunes, pic stars the always feisty Judi Dench as a widow looking back on her wartime youth in an all-girl swing band. But despite delightful performances from a star-studded cast, the film’s thoroughly predictable storyline and low-key charm are ultimately more a sedative than a tonic.

After her husband dies, Elizabeth (Dench) ponders her life anew, and comes to believe that her happiest days were during the uncertainties of WWII, when she played saxophone with the Blonde Bombshells. To the horror of her grown children, she unpacks her sax and teams up with a street performer in a London plaza. Her past, pictured here in flashbacks, rises up when she’s approached by charming rascal Patrick (Ian Holm), who used to dress in drag to play drums for the Bombshells in order to avoid going to war — and also in order to seduce its members one by one.

At the urging of granddaughter Joanna (a precocious Millie Findlay), Elizabeth decides to reunite the band, and she and Patrick seek out the still-living musicians, whose fates have been diverse since the war.

Bringing them together is not an easy task. Annie (June Whitfield) has devoted her trombone-playing to Jesus in the Salvation Army; Betty (Joan Sims) and Gwen (Cleo Laine) still perform, but have recovered from bad marriages — both to Patrick; Evelyn (Billie Whitelaw) is in jail; Dinah (Olympia Dukakis) remains perpetually boozed up in her rich late husband’s Scottish castle; and Madeline (Leslie Caron) is almost impossible to find.As they seek out the others one by one, Elizabeth and Patrick engage in an ongoing, and refreshingly adolescent, flirtation. Dench and Holm are perfect together, and Elizabeth’s attraction to the irrepressibly untrustworthy Patrick remains sweetly engaging.

Unfortunately, Alan Plater’s screenplay is pretty thin, leading inevitably — with only the most transparent twists and turns — to the Bombshells’ performance at Joanna’s school dance, and director Gillies Mackinnon (“Hideous Kinky”) can’t manage to make the finish as feel-good as it needs to be; despite the fact that we care about Elizabeth, the stakes are just too small here to become involving.

The soundtrack’s nice, Richard Greatrex’s cinematography is nice and the acting is quite nice. But taken together, these niceties wind up as members of the bland.

The Last of the Blonde Bombshells

Production: Filmed in London and Aberdeen, Scotland, by Working Title TV in association with HBO Films. Executive producer, Simon Wright; producer, Su Armstrong; co-producer, Analisa Barreto; director, Gillies Mackinnon; writer, Alan Plater.

Crew: Camera, Richard Greatrex; production design, Michael Pickwoad; editor, Pia Di Ciaula; music, John Keane; casting, Di Carling. 80 MINS.

Cast: Elizabeth - Judi Dench Patrick - Ian Holm Dinah - Olympia Dukakis Madeline - Leslie Caron Gwen - Cleo Laine Betty - Joan Sims Evelyn - Billie Whitelaw Annie - June WhitfieldWith: Millie Findlay, Thelma Ruby, Felicity Dean, Nicholas Pallister, Valentine Pelka, Carla Mackinnon, Dom Chapman, John Warnaby, James Cosmo, Romola Garai, Saskia Vale, Grant Ibbs, Ria-Belinda Mundell, Patricia Valentine, Laura Crossley, Lucy Voller, Kate Maberly, Clemency Buton-Hill, Lucy Pawlby, Harry Jones, Kathryn Pogson.

More TV

  • How Cooking-Travel Shows Are Changing TV

    How Cooking-Travel Shows Are Changing TV

    Toyo hunches over his street food stove, cooking tuna with a blow torch, stopping to light his cigarette with it and produce a cheeky grin. The Japanese chef, who owns a roadside stand in the city of Osaka, is one of many highlighted in the Netflix series “Street Food.” Over the course of 30 minutes, [...]

  • SAG-AFTRA HQ

    SAG-AFTRA Leaders Approve Proposal for New Film-TV Contract

    The SAG-AFTRA national board has approved proposals for a successor deal to its master contract covering feature film and primetime television — a key step in the upcoming negotiations cycle with companies. The board approved the package Saturday with the performers union declining to reveal any specifics — its usual policy. The board established the wages [...]

  • Shannen Doherty'Jennie Garth: A Little Bit

    Shannen Doherty Joins 'Riverdale' Season 4 in Luke Perry Tribute

    “Riverdale” is planning to make a special tribute to Luke Perry. The show’s executive producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa announced at Comic-Con that Shannen Doherty, Perry’s longtime friend and “Beverly Hills 90210” co-star, will guest star in the season 4 premiere. The tribute episode will “reflect Perry’s enduring legacy and the indelible imprint his character” Fred Andrews [...]

  • Supernatural CW

    'Supernatural' Team Gets Emotional Final Season Sendoff at Comic-Con

    The cast and creative team of “Supernatural” bid a fond farewell to the attendees of San Diego Comic-Con on Sunday. At the show’s final panel in the gargantuan Hall H, the team thanked the fans for all of their support over the years as the series prepares to enter its final season. “I’m trying not [...]

  • Alicia Rodis photographed by Alicia Rodis

    SAG-AFTRA Moves to Standardize Guidelines for Intimacy Coordinators

    SAG-AFTRA is moving to standardize guidelines for intimacy coordinators as part of an effort to establish policies for union members when their work involves nudity and simulated sex. “Our goal is to normalize and promote the use of intimacy coordinators within our industry,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. “Intimacy coordinators provide an important safety net for [...]

  • SDCC TV News Roundup: Syfy Releases

    SDCC TV News Roundup: Syfy Releases 'The Magicians' Season 5 Clip (Watch)

    In today’s SDCC TV news roundup, Syfy shares a clip from “The Magicians” Season 5, and Amazon sets the Season 4 premiere of “The Expanse.” CASTING Julie Gonzalo and Staz Nair have joined the cast of “Supergirl” for its upcoming fifth season. Gonzalo will portray iconic DC character Andrea Rojas aka Acrata, a polished businesswoman [...]

  • Doom Patrol -- Ep. 101 --

    'Doom Patrol' Renewed, Season 2 to Stream on DC Universe and HBO Max

    “Doom Patrol” has been renewed for a second season and will soon be available outside of DC Universe. At San Diego Comic-Con, series executive producer Jeremy Carver and star Diane Guerrero announced not only that the show will be back for another season but also that it will be available on HBO Max, the upcoming [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content