For many moviegoers, the cineplex helps us escape from our daily lives. Yet for others, exploring the stories of someone different than us helps reorient our experiences. If you are looking for a fun time, sometimes spending time with the girls is all you need to improve your mood. Luckily, Calendar Girls from directors Maria Loohufvud & Love Martinsen know exactly where to look. A pleasantly fun and entertaining documentary, Calendar Girls not only showcases a unique side of life but reminds the audience it’s never too late to pursue your dreams.
Based out of Southeast Florida, a dance troop of women has found family and comradery in each other. The dance team does little for themselves. In fact, despite setting up more than 100 performances per year, they ensure their proceeds go to charities designed to pair veterans with service dogs. As Calender Girls examines the women of the dance troop, we get unique insights into the very eclectic backgrounds of each dancer. Sometimes, it truly does take a village to do something special.
Loohufvud & Martinsen gain the trust of the women within the group and immediately stumble upon eclectic subjects. How the filmmakers found a group like Calendar Girls is not made clear in the film, but the Scandinavian filmmaking duo captures some truly intimate confessionals. Sometimes, an unseen part of making the documentary requires buy-in from the subjects, and in this case, Loohufvud & Martinsen came through. Even when the footage may showcase an unappealing or frustrating part of the women’s lives, the filmmakers contextualize the sequences to benefit their women.
The stories themselves are moving as well. Perhaps the most heartbreaking is around a costume designer within the group. While the woman struggles to find a relationship, she finally breaks through with the seemingly right man. However, his actions include dictating how she can spend her time, and he nearly sabotages her ability to contribute to the group. As the two go back and forth, you can feel her exasperation through the frames. These are intimate moments of a relationship in turmoil, yet the documentary team still got the trust and permission from the family to showcase these moments.
While other subjects return to the real world from prison, or even if they lived a life before the group as a cop, they can find common ground through dance. There’s a mesmerizing aspect to the film that sells you on the equality within the group. While it might have been interesting to examine the power structures within mega-groups like this, Calender Girls wants us to leave the film feeling positive about the world. It’s not going to change the ways that documentaries are made, but there’s plenty here to make for an entertaining and enjoyable film.