Chris (Helen Mirren) and her best friend, Annie (Julie Walters), live in a small village in the North Yorkshire Dales. Their days are filled with children, husbands and their good work for the local women┬┤s Institute (W.I.) - an old-fashioned organisation usually joined by women over 50, that stands for "enlightenment, fun and friendship". But enlightenment as far as the W. I. is concerned is a dull lecture on the history of broccoli or rugs that only make Chris and Annie giggle in the back row of the meetings like two naughty schoolgirls.
When Annie┬┤s husband (John Alderton) dies from Leukaemia, the women decide to use the proceeds from their annual calendar to buy a new couch for the relatives┬┤ room in the hospital where he was treated. But the calendar with its usual conservative themes of flower arrangements, landscapes or churches is never a "best seller". The rebellious Chris comes up with the radical idea to produce a calendar featuring the members of the W.I. engaged in traditional tasks such as basket weaving, jam making and knitting. But with a twist - the women are in the nude! Of course, this doesn┬┤t go down well with the prudish traditionalists in the organisation or with Chris┬┤s teenage son.
The calendar becomes an overnight sensation and an international best seller but relationships suffer including the life-long bond between Annie and Chris, and upsets the mundane daily life of everyone involved. The film looks at the dubious honour of being a celebrity, and especially at how the moment of success is bitter-sweet for Annie while she┬┤s dealing with the pain of bereavement.
Based on a true story, "Calendar Girls" has been acclaimed as the female version of "The Full Monty". But one of the biggest differences between the these two films is that in "Calendar Girls" the women are never sexualised. They are portrayed as nudes and heroines. While this may be disappointing to some viewers, It┬┤s not the point of the film. For most of the 12 women who were featured on the calendar it was a tremendous breakthrough to remove their clothes in the first place. For others like Ruth (Penelope Wilton) the experience empowered her to stand up to her cheating husband.
The film makes gentle fun at conservative women┬┤s groups but also celebrates ageless female empowerment with quick, ironic humour and grace. In this age when we see so many "nipped and tucked" young female bodies on the silver screen, "Calendar Girls" is a heart-warming reminder that real women over 50 do, in fact, exist, complete with hard-earned wrinkles.
2003, Buena Vista International
Starring: Hellen Mirren, Julie Walters, Linda Basset, Annette Crosbie, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton
Written by Juliette Towhidi and Tom Firth
Produced by: Suzanne Mackie and Nick Barton
Directed by: Nigel Cole