A still from Calendar Girls by Maria Loohufvud and Love Martinsen, an official selection of the World Cinema: Documentary Competition at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Love Martinsen.

Calendar Girls Review: Maturity in Motion

Sundance 2022

/
4 mins read

Calendar Girls
(Sweden, 83 min.)
Dir. Maria Loohufvud, Love Martinsen
Programme: World Cinema Documentary Competition (World Premiere)

 

Kick up your heels with Calendar Girls! This fun doc from Maria Loohufvud and Love Martinsen observes a troupe of golden girls in Florida. The Calendar Girls are a group of mature women who dance for a good cause. They bust a move to raise money for guide dogs for the blind and perform several shows a week with practices in between. The Calendar Girls hustle, remaining youthful at heart while telling their audience that aging is all in the mind.

Founded by Katherine Shortlidge, the thirty-odd women of the Calendar Girls defy stereotypes of ageism and sexism. They stay fit, healthy, and hip with their routines, for which they create their own costumes. The girls dance to the latest hits and devise their own choreo. They’re also smartly plugged-in to the times, as they harness tools like YouTube to learn new techniques in shading and blending while doing their make-up. From ice princesses to all-American girls, they transform for any occasion to the audience’s delight.

While Calendar Girls doesn’t necessarily tread new terrain—docs have looked at youthful seniors, even ones who dance, before in titles ranging from Some Kind of Heaven to Hip Hop-eration—the film has a bright bounce to its step. Loohufvud and Martinsen capture the dancers on location, but they liven things up with dreamy interludes. Dance numbers that are staged and shot cinematically contrast with the public performances captured verité-style to deepen the rhythm. One gets a better sense of the dancers’ lively finesse and joie de vivre in these playfully choreographed moments. The cinematic dance sequences also bring age into close-up. The striking cinematography embraces wrinkles and showcases golden age beauty without care.

 

Growing Old Ain’t for Sissies

Calendar Girls isn’t all bubbles, though. These gals are aging and many of them know they’ve more years behind them than ahead. Loohufvud and Martinsen observe candid conversations about aging and mortality. Over drinks, a few girls debate the perfect way to die. Besides going out dancing—with their heels on, of course—they wonder about assisted suicide. They also debate with a tinge of morbid black humour how best to off themselves before it gets too bad. A gunshot through the temple or through the mouth, perhaps. (One insists on the mouth.) They agree that one should end it in the shower to avoid leaving blood splatters and brain bits for loved ones to clean up. Men usually make a mess, but these women don’t want to leave unfinished business.

There are also intimate looks at the cruelty of aging. One Calendar Girl struggles to keep up with the group as her stomach stops absorbing nutrients. She tires quickly despite her passion and seeming good health. The doc underscores how much one must use the time one has because bodies often give out sooner than we do. Other threads explore the effect of COVID on mental health, as one Calendar Girl finds herself stuck up north. She misses the balm of sunny Florida and the time spent with friends.

Besides the energetic message about keeping oneself young, Calendar Girls should please audiences with its bubbly spirit and sage wisdom. It’s a story about self-preservation and self-love, but also sisterhood: growing old isn’t easy, so there’s no point in doing it alone.

 

Calendar Girls premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association.

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