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Movie Review: "Calendar Girls"

Something I did not know: this movie is based on a true story, which makes it all the more interesting.

The basic plot line is this: there are a group of women in a small town in the Yorkshire region of England, who belong to a "Women's Institute" group, which apparently is a large organization in the UK. They do fundraising for worthy causes, but when we first see this particular group, they are listening to excruciatingly boring talks on how wonderful broccoli is.

Then the husband of Annie (Julie Walters) dies of leukemia, and Chris (Helen Mirren) and some of the other women get the idea to make a calendar -- with all of the fifty-something women posing nude. They have a time trying to find a photographer, and then a sponsor, and there's a subplot with Chris' teenage son, who is of course mortified at the whole thing (and this after Chris finds a soft-core porn magazine under his bed, which is something I think is universal to teenage boys).

At times, the movie doesn't know what to make of itself -- it's a whimsical comedy, but there are also deeply emotional subplots between the two women, Annie and Chris, who sometimes find themselves at odds when the calendar becomes hugely popular and the group of women are whisked off to "Hollywood" (OK, really Burbank) to appear on the Tonight Show. We learn what bonds are formed between these women, all of them, and how they manage to get the national Women's Institute behind them even after the national president pretty much blows them off at a convention.

This movie isn't as deep as some of the others I have seen in the last month, nor will it probably get nominated for any awards (though Mirren is always good in anything she does). But it is entertaining, and well crafted, has a lot of funny lines, and of course, a happy ending, and you can't ask for much more.

What I would like to ask for in a movie-going experience, now that prices are on the way up again, is for the projectionist to not forget to focus the film on the screen (I was ready to go out and ask for a refund afterwards, but he figured it out after the first reel), and for the sixty-something women sitting behind me to stop the running commentary throughout the entire film. Seriously, if you cannot shut up for 90 minutes in a movie theater, stay home and wait for the DVD.

AYRating: ***