United Kingdom, Nigel Cole (2003)
Helen Mirren and Julie Walters are a treat to watch in this enjoyable comedy with an enduring friendship at its heart. Based on the true story of a women’s service club who posed nude for their fund-raising calendar, the story was much more compelling than I’d expected.
Having been disappointed by Saving Grace, another art house film starring one of my other favorite British leading ladies (Brenda Blethyn) and with the same director (Nigel Cole,) I fully expected Calendar Girls to be similarly sweet but shallow. I was pleasantly surprised to the contrary. Mirren and Walters, as best friends Chris and Annie, are great together. Mirren gets the showier role of the outgoing Chris who’s earned a reputation for hair-brained schemes that backfire. This time she’s determined to make good when she comes up with the idea to create a titillating calendar to raise money for the hospital, as a tribute to Annie’s recently deceased husband. The project garners national attention, a trip to Hollywood and raises scads of money, beyond their wildest dreams.
A simple story, beautifully told, well acted by a slew of great British character actors and set in the beautiful green of the Yorkshire countryside.
Here’s the Gist: When either Helen Mirren or Julie Walter appear in a film, it’s reason enough to go. To get them together is a bonus. [****]