Film review: The Full Monty (1997), directed by Peter Cattaneo
If you’ve never heard of this film, you’ve missed something. It opens with a chirpy film about how Sheffield is on the go, sometime in the 1960s or so, and it’s growing to be a metropolis and everything’s great – all thanks to the steelworks. Roll on 25 years, and it’s a different story. The steelworks have all but shut down, and unemployment is high.
One of the ex steelworkers is Gaz (Robert Carlyle), who is on the dole (unemployment benefit), trying to get money to help with paying for his son, Nathan (William Snape). When Gaz’s ex wife wants sole custody because Gaz can’t pay up, Gaz decides something very drastic needs doing.
His best friend Dave (Mark Addy) has his own problems with being unemployed. His self-confidence is shot, rendering him impotent, and is a strain on his relationship with wife Jean (Lesley Sharp).
When Jean, and most other women in town – or so it would seem – go to a performance by the Chippendales at a local venue, Gaz has an idea. Why would women want to see a bunch of “poofs” when they could see real men instead? And, more importantly, pay good money to do so? Maybe they could do a one-off striptease performance, and unlike the professional strippers, maybe dare to bare it all?
Getting some other men on board – Lomper (Steve Huison), Horse (Paul Barber), Guy (Hugo Speer), and former foreman Gerald (Tom Wilkinson) – the men start to rehearse. And things roll on from there.
The whole concept of male striptease is perhaps a bit of a giggle, and while most of us can probably see why a bunch of young, well-toned blokes covered in oil would be appealing, there’s no denying that it’s not what most blokes look like – and to be honest, ladies, don’t we quite like our men to be a bit more natural to look at?
What I think they do really well is the characterisation. How some people struggle to admit to their partners they’ve lost their job, how others get fed up being on the dole when there’s no jobs going, and how soul-crushing long-term unemployment can be. You do lose a lot of confidence in yourself, which in turn doesn’t help you to get a job (or to change jobs if you’re in one you hate).
Gaz is a right geezer, but his heart’s in the right place (sort of), and you can’t help but rooting for him to be able to keep seeing his son. And while this heartfelt story is unfolding, you’re laughing. The Full Monty is a comedy, and it’s a darn funny one at that. Partly because you’re giggling at the absurdity of it all, much like their test audience, and parts because it’s just proper comedy.
It’s a great film, always putting a smile on my face.
4 out of 5 garden gnomes.