Honoring the Heroine: Calendar Girls

A movie which features a bunch of middle aged woman as main character should be a shoe in for this blog, shouldn’t it? Well…not quite. It is mostly here on the merits of the topic, but the execution is lacking on so many levels. And not just because the movie is supposed to be a comedy, but certainly not one I would pick if I wanted a to laugh really hard.

The premise of the movie is based on a real story of a group of woman who decide to pose in a nude calendar in order to raise money for a comfortable sofa for the waiting room of a cancer ward. The movie centres mostly around Annie, whose husband just died of cancer and her close friend Chris, who becomes the driving force behind the calendar. And here starts the first problem of the movie: All the other woman are just here. Yes, there is a subplot with one woman being cheated on by her husband and another one being particularly shy, but there is no substance to any of this.

I can’t help but comparing this movie to “The Full Monty” which has a similar thematic, and it falls short on every level, and not because in this case the characters are male, but because “The Full Monty” deals extensively with the relationship between the different characters but also with their own insecurities concerning their bodies. The Calendar Girls hesitate a little, but the audience doesn’t really learn why they would agree to the project (aside from the obvious desire to raise the money).

Which would be okay if the friendship between Annie and Chris were a little bit better developed. But again, the movie fells somewhat short. The basics are there, especially when they joke with each other. But the conflict between them, which is somewhat the “high point” of the movie, doesn’t really feel organic. In fact, none of the conflicts feel natural. There is are (totally made up) difficulties to get the Calendar sanctioned, one incident with a reporter doing a covert interview with Chris’ husband and writing a tabloid story, the woman being (supposedly) too impressed with their own fame and Chris’ son feeling uncomfortable with the actions of his mother. The last one leads to nowhere. It is only there to serve as a reason for Annie to blow up on Chris eventually, accusing her of neglecting her family because of her fame.

I call BS on this scene.

Let’s examine the situation: Chris is the driving force behind the project. And now she has an invitation to travel to the US and enjoy her fame. But her son was caught by the police smoking oregano (he believed it to be drugs). Call me callous, but I don’t think that this is reason enough for her to not enjoy her one moment in the limelight. It is a reason to sit down and talk with her son (something which never happens in the movie), but we don’t even know if the son feels neglected. We don’t even know if there is a direct correlation between Chris being busy with the project and him deciding to act like an idiot, the only reason which is presented are his troubles with the concept of a “nude mom”. The implication that Chris somehow failed and has to put her life on hold annoys me to no end, especially because at no point there is the implication that her husband should perhaps be more supportive of her, or talking with their son. Who will certainly not end up in the gutter just because she is away for a week or so.

Between all the hazy plotting though, there is a lot which makes the movie worthwhile nevertheless. For one, it certainly does manage to show the beauty of middle aged movie and demands respect for their lives.

Calendar-Girls

I admit, the very idea to go to some woman club with is all about baking, and knitting and listening to speakers about obscure topics make me shudder. And that despite the fact that I actually enjoy baking, crafts work and collecting obscure knowledge. This movie, though, makes me understand why women would spend their free time in some sort of society which is all about stuff associated with a “good housewife”. Simply because it is a place to meet friends, friends who will support you in times of need. The movie is in a lot of way a love letter to woman who follow this lifestyle, while still showing the ridiculousness of it, but without ever being disrespectful.

I also like the character of Chris, mostly because she is very unsuited for the life she decided to lead. “Crazy Chris” has a head full of ideas and not all of them are necessarily good ones. And she is certainly not totally unhappy with her life. And yet I can’t stop wondering if she hadn’t be more suited for a business career.  There is a certain satisfaction in knowing that one of her “crazy ideas” became a big success. In fact the scene in which she believes that she failed and admits that she does feel like a failure is one of the poignant of the movie. I with the writers had built up the plot more on this moment, allowing her to question the life she lead up to this point, without throwing in contrived drama which was simply not needed.

In the end though the movie, while not perfect, is still a good effort. And the story which is based on one which deserved to be told. And not just because the action of a couple of woman raised enough money to pay for a new leukaemia unit at the local hospital. And a sofa.

Quote: “The flowers of Yorkshire are like the women of Yorkshire. Every stage of their growth has its own beauty, but the last phase is always the most glorious.”

Despite my misgivings concerning the plotting, the movie is certainly worth a watch. It is a gentle comedy, which is never really boring, and the abilities of the actors manage to elevate the mediocre script considerably. All in all it is very “English”.  

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