The Full Monty

Directed by Peter Catteneo
Starring Robert Carlyle, Tom Wilkinson, Mark Addy

The latest British picture to go down a storm in America is also doing rather well over here. It tells the story of a group of out of work ex-steel workers in Sheffield led by Gary(Carlyle) who decide to follow in the footsteps of the Chippendales and become male strippers to raise some money. We follow them as they struggle to get into shape for the big show.
Similar to Brassed Off, this film also shows the hopelessness if the long term unemployed in a town where manufacturing industry has died. Thankfully we don't get too many angsty rage against the world scenes, but we can sympathize with Gary as he tries to raise some money to pay maintenance for his son.(Do you really lose the right to see your children if you don't pay up when you are unemployed? Not sure about that bit.) However, it seems any film about the plight of the working classes also must be a film about men. Yet again the women's roles are abyssmal, and the way the men treat them is diabolical. Gary's ex-wife is seen as a right bitch. Tom Wilkinson doesn't even tell his wife he has been out of work for 6 months, Dave(Mark Addy)'s wife(the always reliable Lesley Sharpe) is loyal but ingnored. Women are seen as the means to the men's end- they will be their paying audience. Maybe I am missing the point about men's problems in a world where they are seen as superfluous. Manufacturing industry closed down, women no longer need supporting, masculine pride taking a pounding. It is just that a film like this- good as it is, is seen as a British film. Something with women in would be called a chick flick, and cast into the Waiting to Exhale category. To give The Full Monty its due, at one point, the rather cuddly Dave does tell the men to remember that they too will be judged purely on appearance as they are doing to the women in a magazine they are looking at. The rather lame excuse one guy gives, that it is different because they are blokes, does inject a slightly more balanced note.
Ignoring the sexual poitics, this film has a lot of strengths. The characters are excellent, and the actors do very well. Robert Carlyle is always a bit menacing- Trainspotting hasn't been forgotten, but he slips into the accent and role well. Tom Wilkinson is a fine actor always worth watching, and the other suppoting cast do well. We really didn't need the gratuitous and contrived homosexual note- that didn't ring true at all. However, the grim humour and the very Britishness of it was nicely dome. I wonder if the attepmt to explain a dance move by comparing it to the Arsenal defence and Tony Adams survived to be seen by the Americans? One other thing- I don't think I would have paid to see those flabby bodies! 7/10

September 1997

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