A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 264 – Calendar Girls

Calendar Girls – November 19th, 2010

After last night’s rage-fest we wanted very much to watch something that would make us happy. Something we could thoroughly enjoy. Something that wouldn’t make us tense or irritated or angry. Something made with the purpose of putting a smile on the face of anyone who watches it. And while this movie certainly has its sad bits, overall it is expressly intended to be a feel-good comedy. It also has the side effect of making me want to move to England, but a good many British movies do that, as did The Avengers (tv show, not the hideous modern adaptation movie that made me so very sad) and a good cup of tea. Anyhow, I did not come out of this movie pissed off. A little teary-eyed and certainly smiling, yes.

The teary-eyed comes from the purpose behind the calendar that is the center of the movie. After the death of the husband of one of the main characters, her best friend comes up with the idea of swapping out the annual craft-and-church photo calendar put out by the local Women’s Institute with a calendar featuring tasteful nudes. Of the women in the Women’s Institute. Who are all getting on in years, over 40 certainly, over 50 for more than a few. Of course it’s terribly scandalous for them all to do this and they’re all a little hesitant about it. Except Chris, who came up with the idea in the first place. And eventually they get enough ladies to do the whole year’s worth of photos and shoot the calendar, planning on donating all the money they raise towards buying a new sofa for the relatives’ lounge at the local hospital. It’s a touching sentiment and the movie does have a focus on it that works quite well at getting you sniffling.

The rest of the movie is about the lives of the women who participated and what happens to them after news about the calendar spreads and they suddenly find themselves in the papers all over the place and even across the pond in the US. On one hand, it’s fantastic, because the more they sell the more money they raise and they didn’t even expect it to really be a huge success even locally. On the other hand, the bigger it all gets the more they all get wrapped up in it, especially Chris, who’s very much enjoying having done something big and successful, to the detriment of her home life. Her son’s mortified by the whole thing and starts acting out (though in a relatively tame way) and her husband casually mentions to someone who turns out to be a reporter that he barely sees his wife now. And she’s not the only one dealing with fallout, though Ruth’s situation, with her cheating husband, was already in the works. It was just the calendar that acted as a catalyst for it all to come to a head.

While the heart of the movie is about Chris and her friend Annie and using the calendar to raise money to honor Annie’s husband, the point is about doing something daring and out of the ordinary. While I do love seeing the very proper looking Jessie calmly talk about the calendar over breakfast with her husband, and her matter-of-fact attitude about it all is fantastic (and played brilliantly by Annette Crosbie), and Celia Imrie is hilarious as Celia, and Helen Mirren and Julie Walters are wonderful as best friends Chris and Anne, I think it’s Ruth and Cora I love watching the most. Cora, played by Linda Bassett, has a story that doesn’t take up a lot of space in the movie, but if you watch closely you can see what her life is. She plays the piano for the WI. She runs a shop and tea room. She has a daughter whom she wants to be a good example to. And she has a tattoo. Eventually it becomes clear that she and her daughter seem to have gotten even closer because of the calendar. It’s a quiet background story but I love it. And then there’s Ruth, who’s very much devoted to her husband, nervous about life in general, and not at all on board with the whole nude calendar idea. Until she begins to suspect that her husband is bored. She jumps into the photo shoot, then later on learns that he’s been cheating on her, likely for some time. There’s a not-entirely-unpredictable-but-satisfying-all-the-same scene where she confronts her husband and his mistress, then heads off for Hollywood. Penelope Wilton does an absolutely lovely job with Ruth, playing her both meek and mischievous at the same time.

The whole falling out between Chris and Annie seems a little contrived, but it fits into the overall story that the movie builds. I have no idea if such a thing actually happened within the group of ladies upon whom this movie is based, but I suspect if it did this movie highly dramatizes it. But really, that’s a small quibble and I understand what the aim of it was. Not to say that falling outs don’t happen, but the specifics of this particular one, when put up against everything else, seems a little easily built and easily fixed. What I find more realistic and more touching were the piles of letters Annie gets after news of the calendar and its purpose gets to be widespread. So many letters, all from other people who’ve lost loved ones to cancer. It’s sad that I do find that so realistic, but it is. Which is why this movie is able to tug at those heartstrings so easily. Fortunately, the teary bits are spread out through the movie and the rest is just plain fun to watch. It’s full of strong characters, many of them female, doing fantastic and amazing things all because at the start of it, they wanted to help a friend.

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November 19, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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