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Calendar Girls Review

By Shawn McKenzie 01/04/2004

Have you ever noticed how cute nudity is when it is British?  The new film Calendar Girls manages to show a lot of skin, yet I doubt it will offend anyone watching it.


Every year, the Rylstone Women’s Institute in North Yorkshire, England, puts out a calendar as a fundraiser for one cause or another.  The calendars usually depict flowers or bridges, things that bore best friends and fellow WI members Chris Harper (Helen Mirren) and Annie Clarke (Julie Walters.)  Chris’ husband, Rod (Ciarán Hinds), is a florist, and their teenage son, Jem (John-Paul Macleod), is curious about women (by looking at nudie mags) and drugs (he smokes what he thinks is pot, but it is actually oregano.)  Annie’s husband, John (John Alderton), is dying from leukemia.  Towards the end of his life, John compares the women of North Yorkshire to sunflowers, stating that they get better with the page of time.  Unfortunately, his death in the hospital was slow, and the waiting room couch was extremely uncomfortable for Annie.  After John’s death, Chris and Annie decide to make the latest calendar’s funds pay for a new hospital waiting room couch.  Chris takes John’s statement about the women of North Yorkshire to heart and comes up with a calendar subject that is a little more interesting than flowers or bridges.  Chris, Annie, and others in the WI would pose naked with objects strategically placed in front of any “naughty bits.”  Ruth (Penelope Wilton) joins to get back at her cheating traveling salesman husband, Eddie (George Costigan.)  Jesse (Annette Crosbie) is the oldest and shortest member to join.  Celia (Celia Imrie) is a golfer who joins because she thinks she’s rather hot for her age.  Cora (Linda Bassett) is the club pianist and church organist whom no one figured had an exhibitionist side, much less participate in a nude calendar.  They recruit a local photographer named Lawrence (Philip Glenister) to shoot the calendar, even though he is very nervous in doing so.  The WI’s leader, Marie (Geraldine James), doesn’t like the idea, and even tries to get the national Women’s Institute to shoot down their idea.  Chris and Annie are able to convince the national board to allow the calendar to go through, and it takes off with bigger results than expected.  Their newfound success threatens the friendship between Chris and Annie, as they start to forget the original reason they created the calendar.


Technically, only Mirren shows any bits that couldn’t be shown on television (well, network television…well, any show that isn’t “NYPD Blue.”)  In fact, it is such a long topless shot that I was wondering why the movie wasn’t rated R.  Should Mirren feel insulted that her naked body wouldn’t warrant a harsher rating?  Any ageism aside, I think that the reason the movie didn’t receive an R rating is because there is nothing particularly offensive about it.  In fact, anyone who may be offended by it might be embarrassed that they resemble the prudes and old biddies in the movie.  There isn’t a lot of swearing and there is no violence, so I think that the PG-13 rating is the correct one.


Besides the naked factor, is it any good?  Yes, it’s a cute film.  Mirren is the Golden Globe nominated life of the film, but Walters actually brings to it the sensitive, serious side it occasionally has.  Those serious scenes fortunately aren’t a buzz killer to the comedy.


The big problem may be the thick accents.  The movie Sweet Sixteen had the unique idea of putting subtitles in so you could understand what the characters with thick Irish accents were saying.  I know that subtitles are movie poison for the lazy moviegoer, but how long will it be before thick British accents are even more of a distraction?


If Calendar Girls is labeled the female Full Monty, that’s fine by me.  Both films were able to show a lot of skin, yet remain adorable and charming.  This movie was based off a true story, though I have never seen this actual calendar myself.  I’m sure it is rather cheeky and fun, and since it was British, it didn’t offend anyone.  I still don’t know how they get away with that…

Get the soundtrack score composed by Patrick Doyle:

Get the novel written by Tricia Stewart, the real life counterpart of Helen Mirren’s character:

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