Baring It All
If you can say "over 40 and nude" in the same sentence, you might enjoy Calendar Girls, a movie that offers laughs, maybe a tear or two and lots of heart.
Calendar Girls is based on a true story that takes place in the Yorkshire Dales of England. When Annie's (Julie Walters) husband dies of cancer, her friend Chris (Helen Mirren) decides to do something to help the local hospitals and boost morale in the town. Both Annie and Chris belong to the Women's Institute, a group whose members meet regularly and perform good deeds. Chris tells the ladies she wants to produce a fund-raising calendar of them doing their ordinary chores or hobbies -- but in the nude!
At first everyone scoffs, but once Ms. June, Ms. November and Ms. January pick their spots, the women fall over themselves to be included in the project. Soon these women are national celebrities, and their ordinary lifestyles are as scattered as the months on the calendar.
Director Nigel Cole seems to have a fondness for women and for laughs in his films. Consider his Saving Grace (starring Brenda Blethyn), another film about middle-aged women going against the grain. And he does a commendable job again with Calendar Girls, especially when delving into the women's personal motivations and balancing the fine line between humor and seriousness.
Of course, Oscar-nominated Julie Walters and Oscar-winning Helen Mirren need little direction. Both women are versatile, fine actresses who have given audiences much pleasure in films such as The Madness of King George, Educating Rita and Billy Elliott.
As long as the story stays in the women's hometown, it's a charmer. We get insight into each of the women representing a different month on the calendar. Whether spurred on to overcome pain, a husband's infidelity or merely to grab the brass ring of feeling alive -- each has her own unique reason for agreeing to bare it all.
Although the real-life calendar story was perfect Hollywood fodder, I think writers Juliette Towhidi and Tim Firth made a mistake by moving the story to Hollywood at the end of the film. Who cares about watching a bunch of women get makeup and act on the stage? Sadly, at this point the film loses its quaintness, and the charmer becomes a borer.
Luckily, the Hollywood adventure occurs in only a small part of the film. I believe most women and middle-aged to older couples will definitely enjoy Calendar Girls.
(Released by Touchstone Pictures and rated "PG-13" for nudity, some language and drug related material.)