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Last Updated: Monday, 8 September, 2003, 13:01 GMT 14:01 UK
Calendar Girls
Calendar Girls
The Rylstone and District WI branch posed naked for their annual calendar to raise funds in memory of a husband killed by cancer. Their story has now become Calendar Girls.

(Edited highlights of the panel's review taken from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight Review.)

MARK LAWSON:
The first view comes from the man so many literary women are desperate to see in a nude calendar, Tom Paulin. What did you make of it?

TOM PAULIN:
I was very touched by it, very moved by it, I had tears in my eyes. I thought it was wonderful. Visionary English film, the singing of Jerusalem, you know, sort of the sense of the nation. It was very touching. Julie Walters and Helen Mirren just marvellous together. Keron Heinz terrific in it. But the one scene missing which stopped Julie Walters from inflicting her grief early on, which she does much later in the film, I just felt that was missing. So she was just too competent throughout, I thought.

MARK LAWSON:
Rachel Holmes everyone has said, the female Full Monty because of the nudity connection. In fact as Tom suggests, almost no politics at all in this at all. A woman is widowed, we have no idea about her economic circumstances. It's just assumed all these people have money, not very like the Full Monty in that respect, but does it work in the same way?

RACHEL HOLMES:
There's one central political event. That is the calendar itself. And, I have to say respect to every single one of these actresses who did this, they look fabulous. And the politics of it, yes, it's very straightforward, it's very simple, it resexualises middle-aged women and it also gives to middle-aged men license to say their wives and middle-aged women are adorable as well. So I think it's easy to say because it has this rather shot-through stocking, saccharin, Yorkshire that doesn't exist kind of context, yes, that is the context of the romantic comedy. But nevertheless, I think we need to be very careful not to underestimate the force of the kind of body fascism around women's appearance, that this is actually talking back to. And that's good enough for me.

KWAME KWEI-ARMAH:
I agree with both you guys, in a kinda way the Americans tend to do this very well. And I found this film pushed all my emotional buttons. You know, I was crying, like you, Tom. I was going, oh, man! And most of all, I think the women were fine. I was like, damn! You know I think they did do that very well. I adored this film. I think it was very difficult. The only part I didn't necessarily love as much was the end. But I think it's very difficult with a real life story to kind of give it a kind of end that is emotionally satisfying.

TOM PAULIN:
Maybe the Hollywood bit was tacked on and not followed up.

MARK LAWSON:
I felt, Rachel, that there's about enough plot for a fantastic 40-minute film. Then they have to find another 60 from somewhere. There isn't exactly enough to spin it out, is there?

RACHEL HOLMES:
I think there is enough to spin it out. It's actually, because its based on a true story. We all know how difficult it is when you translate something that's a true story into film, into fiction. It's actually an extremely good true story that goes the whole way through. They did go to America. It is a transatlantic story. The calendar sold more than three times as much in America as it did in Britain. So I think there is enough there for the whole narrative. I do feel that once it gets to Hollywood, it does lose its focus because it switches. It becomes a third-act switch which is more about what is the impact of celebrity and actually that isn't terribly convincing. They have to in- fill something in reality that didn't happen, which is the two women who are the closest friends fell out. They didn't.

MARK LAWSON:
There's this bit that goes totally off in the middle where there's a very long sequence which is an advert for Virgin Atlantic where they go to America which I thought was astonishing. Then as Rachel says, it goes to the second half where it becomes a very different film.

KWAME KWEI-ARMAH:
Yes, but you know in a kind of way, you could see that the screen writers did exactly that, they kinda went, OK, we have have got story, as you said, for this much. And in fact now we have to invent and create different narratives in order to make this a satisfying movie. And yes, you know, when it gets to the American thing, you do kinda go, oh, umm, I'm not really sure.

RACHEL HOLMES:
You also have to remember that the whole thing is a very extended animated displacement activity to try and take one woman's mind off her grief.

KWAME KWEI-ARMAH:
But I didn't think that worked terribly successfully in the film. I think by the time, and I think you said this Tom, that by the time I got to seeing how Julie Walters was dealing with her grief, I kind of felt like I was a bit more interested in the Helen Mirren character.

TOM PAULIN:
But there's one moment she does break down but it's late on in the film. You wanted something earlier. On the other hand, It was a kind of tact. I think the Hollywood thing, in a way you think this belongs to the genre of heritage post- modernism. So it's OK because it's celebrity and it's daft.


SEE ALSO:
Stars bare all on Calendar Girls
02 Sep 03  |  Entertainment


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