(out of 5)
Immediate comparisons to the other Brits-strip-for-a-good-cause film, The Full Monty, are inevitable, but up close it’s an equally delightful but very different story and experience. Helen Mirren and Julie Walters are outstanding as two women who are very bored with the dull activities they take part in as members of the Women’s Institutions of Britain, to them a ladies’ society where women can gather to learn about broccoli harvesting and the wonders of tea towels. When Walters’s husband takes ill with cancer and dies of the disease, the twosome decide to raise money for a new visitors lounge in the hospital where he passed away. Not one to go in for ordinary fundraisers, Mirren decides that their local chapter of the WI should forego their idea of making a calendar of portraits of a local church and instead have her and friends pose naked–not naked, actually, but nude. Immediately met with shock and resistance, Mirren discovers a whole community of women who are longing to shake their inhibitions and give themselves the opportunity to be seen as the vibrant, sexual beings that they dream of being. Not merely a local success, the calendar ends up selling out nationwide and even getting the ladies a trip to Hollywood where they appear on Jay Leno. Meanwhile, Mirren gets caught up in the success of her new venture and forgets the reason it all began, leading to friendship troubles with her oldest and dearest pal. The fantastic acting elevates it above standard fare, as do the many hearty laughs you will get from watching these dazzling women let it all hang out.
Directed by Nigel Cole
Cinematography by Ashley Rowe
Music by Patrick Doyle
Production Design by Martin Childs
Costume Design by Frances Tempest
Film Editing by Michael Parker