A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
You may have read about it at the time. A British women's club, trying to raise money for charity, hit on the idea of having its members pose nude for a pin-up calendar. The women were eminently respectable and of a certain age, the photographs were modest if not chaste, and the calendar was an enormous hit, raising something like $1 million for the local hospital.
"Calendar Girls" retells the story in a very slightly risque comedy. Every mention makes the inevitable reference to "The Full Monty," but this movie is not as bawdy and only about 10 percent as monty. It's the kind of sweet, good-humored comedy that used to star Margaret Rutherford, although Helen Mirren and Julie Walters, its daring top-liners, would have curled Dame Margaret's eyebrows.
People sometimes ask me whether I see the movies in "real theaters" or screening rooms -- "or do the studios send them to your home?" (Fat chance of that with the piracy paranoia.) I usually say it doesn't much matter; once the movie starts, if it works, it upstages the venue. But I cannot resist telling you that I saw "Calendar Girls" last August at the Locarno (Switzerland) Film Festival, under the stars in the Piazza Grande, with 12,000 other people, including the presidents of Switzerland and Germany.
A setting like that might have overwhelmed "Lord of the Rings," and here was a modest little British comedy. Interesting, how the story was so straightforward and universal that it played perfectly well, got laughs in all the right places, and left at least 10,000 of us pleased, if not overwhelmed.