CALENDAR GIRLS, something like a cute female version of THE FULL MONTY, was
inspired by a true story about a bunch of fiftyish women from a Yorkshire
church group who decided to raise money for a good cause, leukemia research, by
posing for a tastefully done, nude calendar. With a classy ensemble cast, this
British production's headline star is Helen Mirren ("Prime Suspect"), who plays
Chris Harper, the leader of a rogue group within the local Women's Institute
Chris, a bored member of the WI, has tried to shake up the group in the past
with such activities as a vodka tasting. Her latest scandal occurs when she
wins the baking contest at the fair by submitting a cake from Marks & Spencer.
After sitting on an uncomfortable sofa in the waiting room at the hospital with
Annie (Julie Walters), whose husband is dying with leukemia, Chris develops a
radical idea. Rather than do the planned calendar of local churches, their
small town chapter of the WI should pose nude in order to raise enough money to
buy a new sofa for the hospital. The artistic photographs would be done
"nude," not "naked," with their breasts covered up with foreground objects --
think AUSTIN POWERS. Some in the group are aghast, believing that the endeavor
doesn't fit into the group's charter of "enlightenment, fun and friendship,"
but Chris soon gets enough women volunteers to fill out the months.
Finding a photographer proves much trickier. They finally settle on Lawrence
(Philip Glenister), a nervous hospital orderly with photographic ambitions.
A poem that Annie's husband, John (John Alderton), read her before he died
becomes the calendar group's inspiration. Comparing the flowers of Yorkshire
to its women, John said, "the last stage is always the most glorious," adding,
after a pause, "but then they quickly go to seed."
As the women come onboard the project, they talk about the attitude of nudity
within their families. One woman says it best. Nudity between her and her
husband is always "on a need-to-know basis only." There is also a snide
comment about the French openness towards the subject.
Even if you don't like the movie -- highly unlikely -- it is worth the price of
admission for the breath-taking views of the lovely landscapes and stunning
stone cottages and walls. Yorkshire has rarely looked better. I felt like
running out and buying a ticket for the next plane there.
The story's only flaw is that, after the calendar is published, the movie tries
to morph from a sweet comedy to a more serious message movie. Although this
last portion partially works, it just isn't needed and is too anti-climactic.
But it doesn't spoil the fun. CALENDAR GIRLS is a real treat.
CALENDAR GIRLS runs a little too long at 1:48. It is rated PG-13 for "nudity,
some language and drug-related material" and would be acceptable for kids
around 11 and up.
Copyright © 2003 Steve Rhodes