BEFORE: Helen Mirren carries over from "Woman in Gold" and I'm starting a bit of a U.K. chain (OK, maybe European is more correct), which should take me almost all the way to the start of October's Halloween chain.
THE PLOT: A Women's Institute chapter's fundraising effort for a local hospital by posing nude for a calendar becomes a media sensation.
AFTER: It took me a little while to figure out what "W.I." was, they kept mentioning it at the beginning of the film, but they didn't say the full name until about 30 minutes in - it stands for "Women's Institute", which is a thing in the U.K. It's a bunch of community-based organizations that were formed during World War I, to teach and encourage women how to grow their own food during wartime. I guess in the 1990's they were still around, and formed a sort of a lecture circuit, where people could go from town to town and give gardening tips and such to the local chapters.
And as you might imagine, the participants were mostly a bunch of stuffy old English-women who bake cakes for competitions (I didn't know what a "Victoria sponge" was either - a little help for the non-Brits, please?) and make their own jams and jellies - so it seems the women in one chapter got the idea to raise money for some new furniture at the hospital, so visitors could be a little more comfortable - and being inspired by pin-up calendars (and their son's porno mags, apparently...) decided to do a little cheesecake modeling for a calendar, instead of photos of the usual local churches and bridges.
Obviously there's a personal connection, one woman's husband, who seemed to be well-liked by all the ladies, came down with cancer, so they rallied around the idea, forming a sort of female version of "The Full Monty", although a bit more tasteful. Well, sure, who doesn't want to see a bunch of grannies without their knickers on? (Umm, I'm being sarcastic here, let me make that clear.)
The thing took off like crazy, these polite, prim British ladies became something of a worldwide sensation, and went to L.A. to appear on talk shows. But I worry about the message that their success gives off (and the movie as well) which is, basically - the quickest way to raise some money and gain fame is to take your clothes off. I'm not saying that's not true, it probably is, but it's not really the message that these women would probably want to send out to their kids, right? And posing nude is probably like driving a car, in that at some point, there's got to be an age limit, one would hope. Because it's a slippery slope to GILF porn, and nobody wants that.
This brings up a few points about what is sexy, and what isn't. A woman too eager to show you her body? Not sexy, ironically enough. A shy woman? That's sexy. (I realize this varies from person to person according to taste...) Women with glasses? Sexy. Woman who have heathy appetites, or at least look like they do, they're sexy too. Women who look too fake, too made-up, too packaged? Sorry, not for me.
I work for an animation studio, and our office used to be the headquarters of a few porno mags, and we still get mail addressed to the editors of Leg Tease and other mags I can't type the names of. Mostly from incarcerated people, who are probably reading magazines that are over a decade old, and it breaks my heart to have to mail back their subscription orders or their letters addressed to various models. Don't they know those girls aren't real? I guess if all you have access to is a really old porno mag, or a calendar for power tools, you work with what you have.
There wasn't really time here to focus on all 10 (11?) of the women who posed for the calendar, so most of them just got reduced to simple stereotypes, except for the two or three that the film could really focus on. They got subplots, but the other women felt like they weren't worth the screenwriter's time, unfortunately.
Also starring Julie Walters (last heard in "Brave"), John Alderton, Ciaran Hinds (last seen in "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life"), Linda Bassett, Annette Crosbie (last seen in "Into the Woods"), Penelope Wilton (last seen in "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel"), Celia Imrie (ditto), Geraldine James (last seen in "Gandhi"), Philip Glenister (last seen in "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger"), George Costigan (last seen in "Hereafter"), Graham Crowden, Georgie Glen, Angela Curran, Rosalind March, Lesley Staples, Janet Howd, John Fortune, John-Paul Macleod, Marc Pickering, Harriet Thorpe, with cameos from Matt Malloy (last seen in "Hitch"), Patton Oswalt (last heard in "Nerdland"), Jay Leno and the band Anthrax (!!).
RATING: 6 out of 10 paparazzi