Sometimes the trailer for a film can be deceptive. This can be a very bad thing when the trailer shows several great moments that, one discovers upon seeing the film, are the only inspired scenes in the film.
Deception can be a good thing, though, when the previews make one think that a film is only a light comedy, and then the viewer discovers that there is a whole other level to the film; this is a nice surprise.
“Calendar Girls,” which has a great trailer showing many of the film’s best laughs, turns out to be more than just a smart, witty comedy. It is also a film with profound statements about the nature of fame, family and friendship.
“Calendar Girls” is based on the true story of two women, Chris and Annie in the film, who decide to raise money by creating a calendar. Their women’s group does an annual calendar, but these ladies want to make this one a little bit different. These 50-something mothers and wives want to make a calendar with nude pictures of themselves and their friends on each month. The pictures will not show everything, but will rather be suggestive—more art than pornography. The plan is to use the money to aid the cancer ward at the hospital that treated Annie’s husband.
A lot has to happen to make the calendar a reality. The national women’s organization must approve. They must find enough women willing to pose. They must find a photographer willing to help them. All of this is handled with great amusement.
Both Helen Mirren and Julie Walters give some of their best work here. Mirren plays Chris as a take-charge person who becomes obsessed with making the calendar a reality. Walters plays Annie, Chris’ grounded friend who is not sure what to make of their success. Both ladies are previous nominees for Academy Awards and both would deserve recognition for their performances here.
Early on in the film there are some poignant moments dealing with Annie’s husband, John, as he suffers with cancer. These scenes are handled with honesty and realism, but also offer moments of amusement.
The real drama in the film, which makes it such a surprising artistic success, comes after the calendar is produced. It brings fame to the women who posed in it. Their simple lives are disrupted. Family relationships are strained as are friendships. These strains are followed by one climatic moment where Chris and Annie openly discuss the effects of fame. This is the best moment in the film, and one of the best moments in any film released in 2003.
Some have called this film “The Full Monty” for women. In some ways that is true. Both films deal with people revealing their bodies. In both films the reasons for taking such action seems acceptable, perhaps even noble. Both films mix humor with powerful emotion. Both films could also foster interesting discussions about the morality of nudity. Is the calendar the women produce sinful? Does it breed lust? Do the women involved lack the modesty that Christian women should possess? And does the end, aiding the cancer ward, justify the means?
Some would say these are not important questions because it is, after all, just a humorous movie. Lest one forget, at the end the audience is reminded that this film is based on actual events. The calendar ended up raising quite a lot of money for the cancer ward.
One may go to see “Calendar Girls” because it is a good time at the movies. The trailers do not deceive concerning the laugh quotient. One should also check out this film, however, because it is a moving experience with a great many statements about life; these are eloquently hidden in the trailer.
Now that is a deception that any movie fan should appreciate.
Roger Thomas is pastor of First Baptist Church in Ablemarle, N.C.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for nudity, some language and drug-related material
Director: Nigel Cole
Writers: Tim Firth and Juliette Towhidi
Cast: Chris: Helen Mirren; Annie: Julie Waters; John: John Alderton; Cora: Linda Bassett; Jessie: Annette Crosbie.
The movie’s official Web site is here.