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Calendar Girls

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Calendar Girls

Starring: Helen Mirren, Julie Walters
Director: Nigel Cole
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 108 Minutes
Release Date: December 2003
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Penelope Wilton, Philip Glenister, Jay Leno, Annette Crosbie, John Alderton, Angus Barnett, Linda Bassett, George Costigan, Annette Crosbie

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

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 (WI).

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

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