The Full Monty

  • Title:  The Full Monty
  • Director:  Peter Cattaneo
  • Date:  1997
  • Studio:  20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures
  • Genre:  Comedy, Drama
  • Cast:  Robert Carlyle, Tom Wilkinson, Mark Addy
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“When women start pissing like us, that’s it, we finished, Dave, extincto.”  – Gaz

“I like you. I love you, you bugger.”  – Gaz, to his son, Nathan

“And they won’t say nought about your personality, neither, which is good, ’cause your basically a b…..d.”  — Dave

The Full Monty took the upper Midwest by storm, much to the shock of Hollywood and perhaps even the film’s makers. First released as an “art house” film — it became a blockbuster in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio, and probably other “rust belt” states as well. Critics praised the film and it moved from “art house” slots to main theater venues. I saw the film when it came out and I remember how excited the crowd was. But, the thing is, the success of the movie had to do with the fact that audiences in the Midwest, in steel towns and auto manufacturing towns could identify with the story.

The Full Monty isn’t really about stripping. It’s a film about a group of unemployed steel workers. The film opens with a promotional film about Sheffield, in England, a place that is attracting workers, full of attractions and night life, and is built on steel. Then, comes the caption, 25 years later, and the film starts in earnest. The mills are shut down, most everybody is unemployed, and the few who have found jobs are working low income service jobs, such as security guards at the local superstore or at the abandoned plant.

One night the Chippendale male dancers come to town and perform for one night only at a women’s only night at the local “workingman’s pub”. Gaz is disgusted he can’t go in for a drink, but when his pal Dave tells him his wife’s inside, Gaz decides to pull her out by sneaking in through the bathroom window. Dave is to accompany him but can’t get through the window. Just as Gaz and his son are heading into the pub, three women come into the men’s room. Gaz hides, and watches as they check their make-up and chat. When he sees one of the girls stand and pee in the urinal (something she learned at “girl guides” she says), Gaz is shocked. The next day at Job Club, the unemployment center, he’s complaining about how useless he feels.

The men are poking fun at the Chippendales, when someone points out how much money the one night made. And Gaz comes up with a plan — getting his mates together as their own “Hot Metal” strippers. No one seems to take his idea seriously, but when his ex-wife and her new husband threaten to sue for sole custody of his son unless he comes up with £700 pounds, Gaz becomes more and more persuasive. He holds try-outs, but only gets one guy that way. He sees his old boss, whom he doesn’t get on with, at a ballroom and recruits him. But mostly, it Gaz, his friend, Dave, and guys from Job Club. In total, the six men decide to teach themselves how to dance, and find a venue so they can make their money.

But again, the heart of the movie isn’t in the stripping. And it’s not the “humor” of a group of overweight, too old, or too skinny steel workers becoming male strippers. The tale is in the people, and the little moments of characterization. Gaz and Dave are walking along and they find a guy, sitting in a car, that’s not working. Dave gets the car started, failing to notice the hose running from the tailpipe inside the car. The guy inside rolls up his window, Dave walks back to Gaz – then notices, and pulls the guy out of the car. At one point he argues with him, throws him back in, then pulls him out.  The guy ends up being one of the six.

It’s moments like Gerald, Gaz’s boss, who goes to Job Club every day because he hasn’t told his wife that he lost his job. She finds out when everything, including the house is repossessed, and she throws him out — the same day he received the notice that he’d got the job he applied for at a different factory.

Even Gaz’s story is about his need to continue to see his son, rather than just trying to make some money.

But the film is also very funny, with great music, which prevents the dire situation of the characters from being too much.  And, again, plant closures, families torn apart, increases in crime, desperation, are all themes anyone from a one industry town like Detroit, Cleveland, or Pittsburgh of the 1970s can identify with.  But the humor prevents it from becoming too much.  In a sense it’s a film that asks, “What if?” as well as “What would you do?”

In the end, despite a near arrest, and various problems, the six men all go on stage and strip. And, as they promised, they do “go for it” and bare it all (tastefully shown from the back). But it’s the characters that make the film. Though the freeze frame at the end is really a brilliant way to end the film.

Fair warning – like Billy Elliot and The Commitments this film has plenty of swearing and blue language. It’s not for young children for that reason. It’s a film for adults, but not in the sexy sense.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  4 of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Galaxy Quest