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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Naked middle-aged ladies worth seeing

By Anthony Breznican
Associated Press Entertainment Writer

In the tradition of "The Full Monty," about British steel workers who bare all, comes "Calendar Girls," based on a true story about late middle-aged British women who do everything BUT the so-called Full Monty.



Two and a half stars

That is, they want to strip down for a charity calendar, but don't want anyone to see anything ... uh, specific.

The nudity idea is concocted by Chris, the brash member of a stuffy women's club, who is tired of annual charity calendars that feature flowers and bridges. Chris is played by Helen Mirren, who at 58 is still very purr-worthy.

Chris is inspired by the X-rated skin magazine she finds under her son's bed and the seminude calendar she spies hanging in a mechanic shop. But those feature supple young girls, and Chris seems to be feeling a bit insecure about her own age.

Then her friend Annie (played by Julie Walters, Ron Weasley's mother in the "Harry Potter" movies), discovers that her sweet-natured husband John (John Alderton) is dying of leukemia. John, a gardener, had planned to give a speech to their women's club about the flowers of Yorkshire.

His speech, "The flowers of Yorkshire are like the women of Yorkshire — each stage of their life is more beautiful than the next," is read to the group by Chris in a truly heartbreaking scene after John dies.

His words inspire her to show others that there is still beauty, mystique and majesty in the body of an older woman, and she sets out to organize her own nude calendar.

A lot of the comedy comes from the older women fretting about how much to reveal, how much to hide behind pastry confections and who should be allowed in the room when the picture is taken. (At first, they want the photographer to peek through a keyhole. His camera can be on the other side of the door, though.)

Most of the gags are relatively tame — one gal guzzles wine before her shoot, another worries about her hidden tattoo — and there are some subplots about a cheating husband that add a little fire but feel contrived.

Mirren plays the most daring of the models, and isn't afraid to have some fun with her bare-all scenes. But the others remain relatively hidden, which saps some of the boldness from this story that purports to blast timidity.

"Calendar Girls" has some sweetly funny moments, but it may be too tasteful for its own good.

The Touchstone Pictures release, is rated PG-13 for nudity, some language and drug-related material. Running time: 108 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.