Calendar Girls (2003) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski) and Tuna

Two thumbs up. It's not a perfect film, and it ruins out of steam at the end, but it is well worth the watch.

Scoop's notes in white:

As you probably know, it seems that all British movies shown in the USA now fall into two types:

Type A - Black comedies about ultra-violent gangsters

Type B - Gentle, quirky comedies about eccentric small-town provincials who are doing something vaguely naughty or socially unorthodox. (Growing marijuana in their greenhouse, getting naked in public, boys giving up football for ballet, girls giving up baking for the trumpet, etc)

This movie is a Type B, and quite a good one in some ways. In fact, Calendar Girls is just about the best 90 minute movie I saw in 2003.

Unfortunately, it was 108 minutes long.

The basic story works beautifully - a simple premise about some rural ladies' clubbers who decide to do a naked calendar to raise some money in memory of one of their husbands, who died during the year. They struggle against various puritanical factions, they manage to pull it off, and instead of selling their few hundred calendars and buying a new sofa for a hospital, they end up world famous, and making enough money to build a whole new wing on the hospital. It's based on a real event, and it is a sweet and stirring story about acceptance and true love, as opposed to romantic bullshit.


  • The calendar girls are naked without showing anything on many occasions.
  • Helen Mirren shows her breasts clearly.
  • Julie Walters shows her butt, sitting down, camera behind her.
  • Celia Imrie shows a bit of her nipples.
  • Penelope Wilton shows the top of her butt and her left breast.

Unfortunately, it has a sub-plot which is mismanaged. Helen Mirren plays the woman who engineers the nudie calendar, and she has a son who is a teenager. The teenager faces all sorts of social repercussions from his mom's eccentric project, then starts to turn to anti-social behavior. Mom's decision to go to Hollywood with the girlies instead of staying behind after her son's arrest places a strain on the relationship of the two stars (played by Mirren and Julie Walters), as well as the relationship between mom and dad. At various times, the paperboy son throws out every local newspaper with a story about his mom, and then the dad talks to the tabloids about how he hasn't been laid since the girls started working on the calendar.

The husband and son either needed to be fully-developed characters in their own separate storyline, or they needed to exist merely as humorous props to add punch to the story about the old naked ladies. The film just couldn't decide which direction to go, so it ended up in limbo where it seemed to want to develop those characters, but didn't know how. As a result, the sub-plot created a lot of tension in the plot that was never really resolved. Is the kid going to become a heroin addict or a serial murderer because of his embarrassment and/or his mom's neglect? We don't really know. Will the two friends eliminate the tension between them. Well, they seem to, but the cause of the tension is never erased. Is the kid's anti-social behavior important? We're led to believe it is, but in the end the dad just blows it all off as nothing. The whole sub-plot with the son seemed unnecessary and half-baked. They could easily have cut 15 minutes of unfunny material out of this film by writing the character of the son out altogether. He was only needed for two or three laughs - (1) walking in while his mom and her friends were getting naked - (2) tossing out the newspapers. And those actions could have been done by a son of any one of the less important naked ladies. Making that change would have gotten rid of the bummer aspect of the sub-plot, while moving the main plot more economically.

Brevity, after all, is the soul of wit.

Region 2 (Europe) DVD info from Amazon

  • widescreen anamorphic, 2.35:1

  • four (boring deleted scenes)

  • two documentaries on the making of the original calendar and the screen version

Region 1 (North America) info from Amazon

features not yet announced

Having made that argument, however, I must point out that the strengths of this movie still make watching it a very pleasant, and life-affirming experience. The first 45 minutes are simply terrific. I laughed out loud a few times (the ladies belong to the world's most boring club, and their tedious meetings are used as a device for humor), and I found the occasional tear creeping down my cheek. Unfortunately, there was that distracting sub-plot and a lot of anti-climax and repetition after the women gave their first press conference.

Tuna's notes in yellow:

I finally got the chance to screen it.

By the end of act two, it was headed for my top 100 of all time list, and then they ran out of conflict to drive act three, so they manufactured some, changing the tone of the film, and not in a good way. To refresh your memory, it is the true story of a group of middle aged women from the Ladies Institute in a small village in Yorkshire, who decide to make a nude calendar to raise money for a sofa for the family waiting room at their local hospital. One of their husbands died that year of Leukemia, and they noticed how deplorable the sofa was. The ladies are, as of this writing, well on their way to earning one million pounds, and have not only paid for the new sofa, but an entire new wing dedicated to Leukemia.

While they focused on getting the calendar shot, and produced, and then becoming a far larger success than any of them could have imagined, the film was dead brilliant, but the climax of the story, being flown to LA for the Leno show, came about 30 minutes before they wanted to end it. To create some dramatic tension, they manufactured trouble for Helen Mirren's character, at home and in a strained relationship with her best friend.

I liked it much better as a feel good comedy about believable people that could easily be my neighbors.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus: three stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 2.5/4, BBC 4/5.

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 6.7/10, Yahoo voters grade it a B-. (It is a chick-flick. Women grade it 7.7, men 6.7. It is more popular with older audiences.)
  • Box Office Mojo. A massive financial success. It grossed a very solid $30 million in the USA. It was a monster hit in the UK, grossing $35 million (the population of the UK is 1/5 that of the USA). It was made for $10 million, and distribution/marketing costs were a modest $7 million.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, Scoop says, "This is a C+. If you like this type of movie, this is a very good one. Just missed a B because of a slow second half." Tuna says, "Even with the flawed last act, this is a very enjoyable film, and one that I will watch again. C+."

Return to the Movie House home page