1997 / Best Director / Best Picture

Film #390: The Full Monty (1997)

The final film in this contemporary British cinema trilogy combines the working class elements of Secrets and Lies with the comedic charm of Four Weddings and some of its own magic. The Full Monty instantly conjures up certain images in people’s heads but I feel that some of you forget that Peter Cattaneo’s film is ultimately about a group of unemployed men.

This is demonstrated perfectly in the film’s opening scene which is taken from a 1970s movie reel entitled ‘City on the Move’ which looked at Sheffield’s thriving steel industry. But, in the late 1990s, the industry had disappeared and the men who used to work there were forced to go on the dole. The characters in The Full Monty have all decided to deal with their new unemployment in different ways even if all these methods ultimately have the same outcome. The film’s protagonist Gaz is a happy-go-lucky type who wants to maintain a relationship with his young son despite the boy’s mother filing for full custody. His best mate Dave is paranoid that his wife is having an affair and therefore has started to withdraw from life. Meanwhile security guard Lomper tries to commit suicide to get away from a life which is split between looking after his elderly mother and playing in the local brass band. The most compelling character, who deserved more screen time, is Tom Wilkinson’s Gerald a man who is yet to tell his wife that he’s been made redundant. Gerald is certainly one for keeping up appearances and I think one of The Full Monty’s most tragic moments is when the bailiffs start calling round. Writer Simon Beaufoy’s script perfectly combines all of these elements with the Gaz’s money-making scheme to put on a strip show for the area’s local ladies. The scenes featuring the lads training for their stripping debut add some much needed light to proceedings but I feel never overshadow the characters. This use of light and shade is one of The Full Monty’s most positive attributes and is one of the reasons that audiences have returned to the comedy drama time and time again.

I do remember watching this film when it first aired on television and by that point it had become a worldwide phenomenon following its Oscar success. In fact the film won an award for Best Musical and Comedy Score, thankfully one Oscar that Titanic wasn’t eligible for. Watching it for the first time in years, I didn’t realise how quick The Full Monty was and it almost feels a little rushed. Due to the short running time several subplots don’t get enough time devoted to them especially the relationship between Lomper and Guy. I felt that both Dave’s anxieties about his weight and Gerald’s need to get back to work needed to be explored in more depth but both were outshone by Gaz’s tale. Not that there’s anything wrong with that as Robert Carlyle’s breezy performance is a joy as his chemistry with Mark Addy who plays Dave. Young William Snape is excellent as Gaz’s son Nathan and clearly portrays a boy who loves his dad despite his many faults. I do feel it’s a shame that not one of the cast members were nominated for an Oscar, especially Wilkinson who steals the show as the incredibly proud Gerald. Wilkinson’s performance is possibly the most tragic and he is able to convey a man who’s devoted all his life to the steel industry. Possibly one of the film’s lasting legacies is its use of music most notably Hot Chocolate’s ‘You Sexy Thing’ and Donna Summer’s ‘Hot Stuff’. Interestingly the iconic ‘Hot Stuff’ dole queue scene was initially cut from the film as Cattaneo didn’t feel it was realistic enough however I believe it represents how much their new passion means to the men. Despite feeling rushed, The Full Monty is an enjoyable film that has a lot to say about the failing industries in the UK and the affect it has on the men who face redundancy. An uplifting look at the many personalities that can find themselves unemployed, The Full Monty is the dictionary definition of a feelgood hit.


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