BluRay/DVD Reviews

CALENDAR GIRLS

By • May 4th, 2004 •

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Buena Vista Home Video, 2003

CALENDAR GIRLS is the poignant, funny and basically true story of a small group of women in a Yorkshire branch of the Women’s Institute who decide to do something special for their annual calendar.

W.I. calendars traditionally feature craftwork, baking, flower arranging, that kind of thing, and their calendar will be no exception. There will be one big difference however. They’re going use local members in the photographs – and they’re going to do it naked.

Needless to say this idea not only causes quite a stir in their small Yorkshire village, but also in the W.I. itself, but these are feisty women and not ones to be put off by the disdain of others.

Annie (Julie Walters – HARRY POTTER, BILLY ELLIOTT, EDUCATING RITA) has recently lost her beloved husband John to Leukaemia and wants to use the calendar to raise money to buy a sofa, in his memory, for the waiting room in the local hospital. Her old friend Chris (Helen Mirren – PRIME SUSPECT, GOSFORD PARK, THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE & HER LOVER), a rebellious member of the local W.I., comes up with the idea of doing it naked after she spots a girly calendar at her local garage.

Remember these are all middle-aged and elderly ladies and the idea of stripping off in front of a camera doesn’t come easily to some of them. As Annie says at one point when one of the other girls expresses her concern: ‘None of us have been here before, love. I mean, for God’s sake, my John didn’t see me naked until the spring of 1975.’ ‘Why, what happened in the spring of 1975?’ she’s asked. ‘A lizard ran into the shower cubicle.’

Eventually, after facing numerous obstacles, i.e.: convincing the W.I., finding a suitable photographer, winning over their husbands and kids, and not least overcoming their own inhibitions, the calendar is published.

Once the media get hold of the story, the girls become nationally, then internationally, famous. The calendar starts to sell out worldwide and the girls achieve celebrity status, even to the point of eventually finding themselves on the Jay Leno show. Chris loves this. Not only will it raise huge amounts of money but also she actually likes the lifestyle, even though it is causing problems on the domestic front. Annie however is not so happy, as all she wanted to do was raise a little money to buy a sofa. Now it all seems to have gotten out of hand and everyone seems to have forgotten why they did the thing in the first place: Her husband’s memory. As she says to Chris: ‘I’d rob every penny from this calendar if it would buy me just one more hour with him’.

This is a lovely film that skilfully plays with your emotions. The lush, green rolling hills and stone cottages of Yorkshire are captured beautifully and create a great contrast to the later scenes when the girls are in L.A. Truly two different worlds. There are some great lines too, like the elderly couple chatting over breakfast: ‘You’re nude in The Telegraph, dear. (Beat) Can you pass the bacon’ and when they’re setting up a baking photo where the model is being helped by the other girls to hide her modesty behind some buns, Chris finally tells the photographer: ‘Lawrence, we’re going to need considerably bigger buns.’

The performances are perfect throughout, as you would expect from such a stalwart and experienced cast, and the roles are underplayed just to the right degree. It’s a case study, not in acting, but reacting.

The ‘Naked Truth’ documentary on the disc introduces you to the real life calendar girls upon whom the story is based and the other doc shows the actresses creating a second calendar for 2004 which was sold for the same good cause as the original. The deleted scenes, though interesting, were wisely cut.

If you’re a FOUR WEDDINGS, NOTTING HILL, FULL MONTY or LOVE ACTUALLY fan then this is for you.


Special Features:
Deleted scenes
“The Naked Truth” documentary
“Creating the Calendar” documentary
Widescreen anamorphic format


Cast:
Helen Mirren
Julie Walters
Linda Basset
Annette Crosbie
Celia Imrie
Penelope Wilton
Geraldine James
Graham Crowden
John Alderton

Produced by Suzanne Mackie & Nick Barton
Directed by Nigel Cole

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