Calendar Girls Movie Review
Inspired by a group of middle-aged women in Yorkshire, England, who rocked the boat in their local knitting-and-baking club and made worldwide headlines by posing nude for a charity calendar, "Calendar Girls" is a quaintly cheeky comedy very much in the vein of "The Full Monty."
Blessed with sparkling performances from the fabulous Helen Mirren and Julie Walters ("Billy Elliott") as the feisty ringleaders who are bored with their group making a pittance each year by putting out boring 12-monthers with pictures of churches or flower arrangements, the movie is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser with a harmlessly fun sense of humor. But it's beguiling only throughout the planning and the posing -- and all the public discombobulation and personal-inhibition busting that results. Once the calendar is released, the picture runs out of steam and tries to keep afloat for a long third act by inventing false drama.
The catalyst for the calendar is the desire to buy a comfortable new couch for the waiting room of a hospital where many of the women spent long hours while one of their husbands was dying of cancer. Realizing they couldn't possible raise enough with their usual endeavors, Mirren's character hits upon the novelty notion of posing nude when she see a cheesecake calendar on the wall of a mechanic's garage.
Debates ensue in Women's Institute meetings and montages take us through tanning salons, beauty parlors, embarrassing episodes with teenage sons and mischievously playful japes like, "I'm 55 years old. If I'm not gonna get them out now, when will I?" The subsequent photo sessions with a nervous hobbyist photographer are the movie's comedy high point as modesty mixed with wine and a good wit lead to housewife-parody poses with strategically placed flowers, cupcakes and kitchen utensils.
But then as the final product becomes an unexpected sensation, making such celebrities of the models that they even travel to L.A. to be on "The Tonight Show" (insert scene of giddy woo-hoo-waving from a limo sunroof here), director Nigel Cole ("Saving Grace") has nowhere to go but into stock internal conflicts over fame and commercial exploitation, inevitable marital problems and wayward-son subplots.
There's a good time to be had watching "Calendar Girls," but the longer is goes on, the more obvious it becomes that the real-life story of these women has been ham-handedly tweaked for mass consumption with formulaic fictional plot points that drag terribly on the movie's clever humor.