Nigel Cole | 103 mins | DVD | 12 / PG-13
Helen Mirren and Julie Walters lead a cast of recognisable British actresses in this popular comedy drama about the true story of a group of Women’s Institute members who posed nude for a charity calendar. The film could so easily have been quite a lowly, cheap TV movie effort, what with its apparently farcical premise, worthy cause and older characters. But instead the filmmakers have crafted a movie that is both utterly hilarious and deeply moving — even for this younger male viewer.
Balancing comedy and drama, and making both work, is quite a feat — as someone once said, most comedy-dramas are so called because they’re neither very funny nor very dramatic — so it’s always impressive to see it pulled off so well. It’s surprisingly fast-paced, the central story supported by a number of well-chosen subplots that help shed light on the motivations of the women, making them more than just some older ladies who decided to strip off. Penelope Wilton is especially worthy of mention, as the downtrodden housewife who uncovers her husband’s affair. Of all the supporting cast she gets probably the largest role, even if it would seem to be the least heralded, and does an excellent job with it.
When I sat down to watch Calendar Girls I was expecting a pleasant bit of fluff that would make a lazy afternoon pass by amiably enough, even if it made an hour-and-three-quarters feel like two-and-a-quarter. I was surprised on most fronts: funnier, pacier, more dramatic, and more affecting than I had any reason to expect. Recommended, especially if you didn’t think it was for you.