FILM REVIEW CALENDAR GIRLS 2003
The true story of the Women’s Institute nude art calendar is well known though this comedy drama takes several liberties with the events.
In 1999, following the death of John Richard Baker, by Leukaemia, his wife and several of her friends in the Women’s Institute (Yorkshire branch), decided to pose for a tasteful nude art calendar to raise money for the hospital where he had been treated. They had expected the calendar to do modestly well, but it took off as a roaring success, raising over two million pounds and making the women briefly into media celebrities.
The film reduces a serious worthy cause and a brave art project to a farce comparable to The Full Monty but with less heart. John Alderton plays the dying John Clark, though the film’s closing dedication does pay tribute to the real John Richard Baker.
The women in the film, played by a stellar cast including Penelope Wilton, Helen Mirren and Julie Walters, are seen running into bureaucratic conflict with local and national WI committee representatives though the WI was in reality totally behind the project from its conception.
The film plays heavily on the women’s apprehension about stripping for a stranger with a camera. Philip Glenister plays the photographer well, but in reality the photographer was the husband of one of the Calendar girls.
The film has the women blown away by their new found fame, and meeting lots of celebrities including the musicians from Anthrax and US chat show host Jay Leno. The travelogue rather detracts from the personality studies involved.
The DVD has a pre-film sequence on a loop that actually shows the closing moment of the film.
Overall, a disappointing film of events that also spawned a major theatre production, which is more based on the film than the actual events.