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This is the second recent movie which appeals to us old folks. The first was a love story, Something's Gotta Give, starring Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton. Now, we have Calendar Girls where a bunch of fifty-something women take it all off onscreen. Despite the age of the actors, or I should say because of it, both films are quite enjoyable. The old pros really know how to act! Calendar Girls is straight out of The Full Monty playbook. It's a different part of England and there's a different emotional trauma, but switch girls for guys and the plot is quite similar. In Calendar Girls, a couple of middle-aged women (Helen Mirren & Julie Walters) are a bit bored with life in their small town in Yorkshire. They belong to the Women's Institute which raises money for various causes by making jams and jellies. Things get serious when Walters husband (John Alderton) gets sick and dies from cancer. Mirren and Walters decide that they should raise some money in his memory to buy a sofa for the local hospital waiting room. Since the jams and jellies don't usually bring in much money, they need to come up with a new idea. As you probably know, since this is a true story, they come up with the idea of doing a nude calendar. Much hilarity ensues as they try to convince the Women's Institute to support the project and try to find a photographer willing to do it.
Calendar Girls gets three bottles just for having Helen Mirren in the cast. She has always taken roles that were just a bit different and not chosen to enhance her rep as a starlet. If you ever saw her in the TV series, Prime Suspect, you know that she doesn't care about doing mainstream, likeable parts. Her characters are fully three dimensional. And, in addition, she has taken off her top in almost every movie she's done. Well, she's 58 years old now and, man oh man, is she ever still a hottie. Calendar Girls is a pretty middle-of-the-road movie for Mirren. But, she makes the most of it and , yes, she takes off her top. Mirren is joined by another crafty British character actor, Julie Walters, who exploded on the screen in Educating Rita in 1983 but then more or less disappeared. But, she has come back strongly in the last few years, first in Billy Elliot, another British feel-good movie, and in the Harry Potter movies. The nice thing about British movies is that all the actors are crafty character actors. Everyone is good here, particularly Alderton as the doomed husband, Ciaran Hinds as Mirren's husband, Philip Glenister as the photographer, and of course, the Calendar Girls (Celia Emrie, Penelope Wilton, Annette Crosbie and Linda Bassett). They will all look familiar since they turn up here and there in various films but here they get to have some fun.
This movie is a bit of fluff much as The Fully Monty and Billy Elliot were. They all depend on good funny performances and a few tugs on the heartstrings to succeed. Calendar Girls is not as good as The Full Monty but it is an enjoyable film. And Mirren et al. are in there actually trying to make three dimensional characters out of the fluff. That is worth seeing. In case you forgot, this is a true story and the calendar actually exists. Take a look at it after seeing the movie. They recreated all the original "months" for the movie. The calendar was quite successful. They not only bought the new sofa but a new wing for the hospital as well