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:: Calendar Girls

Calendar Girls is based on the true story of a group of middle aged women in Yorkshire who raised money for Leukaemia Research by posing nude for a calendar – when such a thing was still the domain of models and stars. They became media darlings and, more importantly, raised a lot of cash.

The film is touted as the new ‘Full Monty’ and it has many of the same elements: unlikely people overcoming personal obstacles to get their gear off for a worthy cause. However, where the Full Monty characters were at their life’s lowest, desperate, and stripping, however bizarre, seemed genuinely like their last chance, there’s not much at stake in Calendar Girls. They’re all comfortably middle class and could have come up with a variety of different ways to raise money, for something that in the end, was not really life or death for any of them. The filmmaker’s attempts to add conflict and tension seemed forced. I didn’t quite believe or understand the Women’s Institute, particularly the large one in London, it seemed to be one giant opportunity for jokes. Once the girls get to Hollywood the film really goes off track, losing any trace of believability.

There is a lot of gentle humour and Helen Mirren is fabulous as the loud, eccentric Chris whose idea it all is, and Julie Walters does a lovely restrained grief as her best friend Annie, who’s husband’s death is the catalyst for all this. I would have preferred a deeper exploration of these women and their lives than the time spent on various predictable subplots that all turn out rather conveniently OK in the end.

Nigel Cole’s direction (Saving Grace) is rather pedestrian, and I have the feeling the humour could have worked much better with a director with a better sense of pace. There’s odd scenes left hanging and the location chosen for the majority of Chris’s son’s story is too obviously contrived and ‘filmy’.

There’s nothing offensive in this film, but there’s nothing terribly original either. This may have been a lovely, heart-warming story in real life, but there’s just not enough there for a film.