Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Calendar Girls

A bottomless kettle of lukewarm, unsweetened tea that only looks like a movie, Calendar Girls recounts the true story of several middle-aged Yorkshire women who created a nudie calendar for charity. Fact or fiction, Calendar Girls clearly shows the influence of The Full Monty, a deserved hit that opened the floodgates for dozens of lesser films about lovable, occasionally nude eccentrics and underdogs. The ever-capable Helen Mirren and Julie Walters lead the pack as two saucy members of a provincial branch of the Women's Institute, a national philanthropic and educational organization not known for its sauciness. When Walters' husband dies of leukemia, the two get the idea to raise money for the local hospital by turning their annual Women's Institute calendar into a nude send-up of the usual jams-and-flowers pictorials. Many scenes of embarrassed middle-aged women disrobing follow, played for maximum cuteness and directed with a titter by Saving Grace's Nigel Cole. After a while, the formula-as-usual entry turns into a deadening slog as it attempts to deal with the aftermath of the women's newfound fame by sending them to Hollywood to appear on The Tonight Show. The film dedicates a whole scene to its protagonists' discovery that their flight has been upgraded to first class, then another to their befuddlement at their luxury hotel rooms. (For fans of eccentric cameos, yes, those are members of Anthrax hanging around the pool.) Calendar Girls wants to comment on the minor perils of low-level fame–even sending Mirren's teenage son up a hill to throw a batch of newspaper clippings to the four winds, in case anyone missed the point–but the story is so gossamer-thin, its characters so resolutely two-dimensional (in spite of Mirren and Walters' best efforts), and its conclusion so foregone that the last half borders on the absurd. It's like stumbling on a very special episode of The Golden Girls in which Bea Arthur and the gang threw in a little T&A along the way.


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