‘Calendar Girls’ has its moments, but not many

Helen Mirren in 'Calendar Girls'
Helen Mirren in ‘Calendar Girls’

Call me crazy but I love movies about old people. They just seem more interesting, more mature. A person can only stand so many films agonizing about the confusion and reckless fecklessness of youth before reaching the breaking point. Perhaps, that’s why Calendar Girls drew me in with its witty group of English gals, a comedy billed as the female The Full Monty.

I was all set to be impressed by this true story of the members of a Women’s Institute of North Yorkshire. These women pooled their resourcefulness to bare it all for a nude calendar they hoped would raise money for the hospital where one member’s husband was dying of cancer. The true story is fun, sad and brave, everything that the film captures manages to capture only briefly in scenes that depict the real life experiences of the members.

Calendar Girls is at its height when all the fuss is over and the women finally come together to create a beautiful calendar. The calendar is beautiful and artistic. The actresses are stunning and humorous as they overcome their bashfulness to bare it all collectively. It is unfortunate that the height of the film lands right smack in the middle, leaving the rest unbearably dull.

I love British comedies like Love ActuallyFour Weddings and a FuneralThe Full Monty and Bridget Jones’s Diary. I could spend hours naming some others. I had hoped to add Calendar Girls to the list. But it is almost too British in a sense. The slang and its inflections are almost wholly inaccessible to American audiences that don’t own a copy of The American-British British-American Dictionary. I found myself debating whether or not to watch the film with subtitles.

After the world is whipped into media frenzy over the calendars, Calendar Girls too quickly becomes more of a judgment about how 15 minutes of fame can go to your head than a lovely tale featuring middle-aged nudity. Helen Mirren and Julie Walters carry the film fantastically but their performances are easy to overlook when the film begins to spiral into sluggishness.

The is sweet and unexpectedly funny at times, but you have to endure the more unfunny times to get to them. The phrase of the day in Calendar Girls is “the last phase is the most glorious.” Unfortunately, the last phase of the film is anything but glorious. Only about 15 minutes of the film is glorious. This is disappointing, as the film runs 108 minutes long.

The featurettes are a mite more captivating than the film. Calendar Girls was obviously fun to work on behind-the-scenes. In “The Naked Truth,” the “girls” behind the real calendar offer insight into their story. Meanwhile, “Creating the Calendar” gives the actresses, production photographer and director the chance to offer theirs.

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