Nigel Cole’s feature-length sitcom Calendar Girls is perhaps the most blatant attempt yet to exploit the popularity of The Full Monty. Here, the perfectly sequestered man jewels have been replaced with perfectly sequestered middle-aged bazangas. Because church is boring, Chris (Helen Mirren) and her catty friend Annie (Julie Walters) decide to put out a nudie calendar to raise money for a local hospital. Their friends are quick to volunteer their bods, but embarrassment quickly settles in. Once they do get naked (or is it nude?), their arty calendar becomes a hit and celebrity quickly ensues. Calendar Girls purports to empower women over 50, but director Nigel Cole only pays minor lip service to the film’s supposed empowerment ritual. The sunflower is the film’s strenuous metaphor of choice, and it may as well be a leftover from Under the Tuscan Sun, along with the soundtrack, which is more aggressive than any of the film’s characters. Besides being afflicted with a serious case of the cutes, Calendar Girls is neither funny nor randy. The film wears body-love like a Hallmark card: on hilltops (where the girls do their Yoga preps) and living rooms (where they take off their knickers), but never in the bedroom. Cole diligently maps out the particulars of the girls’ public relations coup (they’re superstars at home and treated like porn stars in Hollywood), but is unwilling to seriously deal with the romantic and physical frustrations that entangle the film’s older men and women. When Chris hits the talk show circuit in the United States, she’s made to feel ashamed for leaving her troubled son and husband behind. Predictably, then, the empowerment ritual loses steam once the ladies return to Mother England. Cole, in effect, suggests that his girls can’t take their clothes off and have their sponge cake too.
- Nigel Cole
- Tim Firth
- Helen Mirren, Julie Walters, John Alderton, Linda Bassett, Annette Crosbie, Philip Glenister, Ciáran Hinds, Celia Imrie, Geraldine James, Penelope Wilton
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