CALENDAR GIRL is a hackneyed period comedy and coming-of-age saga in which three graduating high school seniors head west to meet the girl of their dreams, Marilyn Monroe. It seems cobbled together out of every pop-culture cliche that 30 years of television specials and Time-Life pictorials have heaped upon us. Held together at every turn by a cheeky, retrospective...read more
CALENDAR GIRL is a hackneyed period comedy and coming-of-age saga in which three graduating high school seniors head west to meet the girl of their dreams, Marilyn Monroe. It seems cobbled together out of every pop-culture cliche that 30 years of television specials and Time-Life
pictorials have heaped upon us. Held together at every turn by a cheeky, retrospective voiceover lifted straight out of "The Wonder Years," and looking like it was researched at a T-shirt shop down at the mall, it wants desperately to be SUMMER OF '42 or STAND BY ME, but succeeds as little more
than a "Happy Days" for the Gap Generation.
Scott (Jerry O'Connell), Roy (Jason Priestley) and Ned (Gabriel Olds) first meet as 8-year-olds at a Howdy Doody lookalike contest, and remain inseparable until weeks before graduation, when the impulsive Roy enlists in the army rather than smooth things over with his palooka of a dad (Steven
Railsback). As a last hurrah of youth, they set out cross-country in a borrowed blue convertible--Roy with the million-dollar smile, Ned the soon-to-be family man, and Jerry, the film's narrator, the reluctant virgin--to track the elusive Marilyn, spurred on by a two-page photo in Life of her
skinny dipping from SOMETHING'S GOT TO GIVE, her final uncompleted film (and only published months after her death).
They fall to earth at the Hollywood bachelor pad of Roy's Uncle Harry (Joe Pantoliano), an aging hipster and playboy after dark whose parties keep the liquor and women flowing in equal proportions. Soon they're following a map to the stars' homes, trying to bluster their way past pesky attack
dogs or surly housekeepers. They park outside Marilyn's gate to smoke pot and wait for morning, only to sleep through it when she walks her small white poodle (no doubt the love pet from Frank Sinatra she promptly christened Mafia). A high-speed chase down Sunset Boulevard finally tracks her to a
nude beach, where the boys must subject themselves to full dorsal nudity in the interest of a higher calling. (No doubt the same nude beach where frequent liaisons with Bobby and Jack were allegedly commonplace.)
The infamous Gallo Brothers, Antonio and Arturo (Stephen Tobolowsky and Kurt Fuller), two car repo thugs for whom Roy used to work and whose blue convertible he has borrowed, apparently without asking, turn up. They spend most of their screen time providing the film's only real character turns,
as Antonio translates everything into sign language for his deaf brother, while he simultaneously speaks to everyone else in a loud clear tone, as if he were lecturing small children.
Once the Gallos are dispatched by staging Roy's death at the hands of fake cops, the boys find a quote portraying Marilyn's love for a baby calf (no doubt from THE MISFITS, years removed from the breathless Marilyn depicted here) and haul a two-ton heifer out to her front lawn. But when Roy
manages to slip inside to dazzle her with his charm, his confidence for once fails him, and Marilyn turns him down flat. This leaves them free to do Hollywood up right, and ushers them through a montage of neon bar signs, a visit to a late-night tattoo parlor, and finally the star-studded premiere
of BARABBAS at Grauman's Chinese, where they spot Dino, Jimmy Darren, and the real-life Chubby Checker, who on-camera appears to be in his mid-60s. By the time the obligatory late-night phone call comes from Marilyn, Roy has taken a good long look at himself, and passes the date on to Jerry, who
winds up staying up all night walking on the beach with her and cherishing it as one of the sacred moments of his life. The next morning the boys leave for home, where Roy climbs into the ring with his Dad and straightens things out. When word of Marilyn's suicide comes months later, we know from
Jerry's voiceover that it falls on him the hardest.
As for Marilyn, a questionable choice to bolster the film's thin credibility by never showing her face leaves her barely in the picture at all, as if she'd been airbrushed in at the edge of the frame. That leaves us to ponder the film's central plot hinge from period clips alone, of which there
are many: THE SEVEN-YEAR ITCH, NIAGARA, LET'S MAKE LOVE, the "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" number from GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES, and the kissing scene from SOME LIKE IT HOT, from which the boys inexplicably emerge wearing 3-D glasses.
Meanwhile, the soundtrack is packed indiscriminately with gems from the '50s and '60s, including entries from Wilson Pickett, Smokey Robinson, and Otis Redding, all released well after Marilyn's death in 1962. Maybe the cannibalization of history by nostalgia is of little concern to "Beverly
Hills 90210" fans. But if these days are ours, these happy days, then they deserve better than to be treated like this. (Violence, nudity, substance abuse).
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