The Full Monty in some ways is a typical sex comedy, which lots of jokes that could pop up in any raunchy movie. What makes it stand out is the context of the comedy and the situation in which the film is placed. The comedy lightens the movie, which centers around a group of desperate men. Being broke and jobless is a reality for more and more people in today’s deteriorating economy, so many people can relate to this movie. The film works so well because it is so realistic and humorous while exploring some controversial ideas of morality and nudity.
The film takes place in Sheffield, England, a once prosperous town whose economy centered around the steel industry. The Full Monty examines the town after the steel industry has become non-existent, leaving the former steelworkers jobless. Gaz (Robert Carlyle), along with his best friend, Dave (Mark Addy), gets the bright idea to put on an all-male dance show after seeing the women of Sheffield go crazy over the Chippendale dancers that come to town. Gaz is looking to earn enough money to pay the child support he owns his son’s mother. Dave is hoping to find work in order to avoid taking a security job that his wife has found for him. The two men hear that Chippendales make thousands of pounds dancing for one night, and they speculate that they could do that too. They enlist the help of their former steel yard foreman, Gerald (Tom Wilkinson), who knows a little about dance. The three men and Gaz’s son, Nathan (William Snape), hold auditions to find more talent for their act. Their group ends up including an old, former break dancer named Horse (Paul Barber), a man name Guy (Hugo Speer) who can’t dance but has certain “attributes” necessary to be a stripper, and a skinny but eager ginger named Lomper (Steve Huison). None of them are the type of men that women flock to see take of their clothes. They are to skinny or too fat or too old or too ugly. But they promise the women of Sheffield something other male strippers don’t–the “full monty.”
As the economy in the US continues to worsen and leave people desperate for work, more and more Americans would be able to relate to The Full Monty. It examines the issues that the downtrodden face in England, a country with a rich history of class divisions. In 1997, I think it would have been much more controversial due to some of its subject matter. Today, more people can relate and accept the content of the film. Although deals with some sad and serious issues, The Full Monty does so in a way that is heartfelt and sincere.
Making a movie about women in this same situation would surely have caused much more controversy. There are people who view stripping for money a major moral issue because strippers essentially sell their bodies. For some, it is one step away from prostitution. The film takes a look at the same situation through the eyes of a group a desperate men. And we end up feeling for them and wanting them to succeed. The babe-free male cast allows The Full Monty to humorously examine the lengths that people will go to to make money. The funniest scenes are perhaps the ones when we see them working so hard to perfect their dance, but failing so miserably. These moments include the scenes when they are researching by using Flashdance as a frame of reference, or when the men get arrested after being caught rehearsing in an abandoned steel building.
Of course, the soundtrack is hilariously perfect and full of typical “stripper” songs like “You Sexy Thing” and “You Can Leave Your Hat On.” But what is surprising was how the dialogue, although heavily accented, is truthful. The six men express themselves in ways that make us relate to them. The actors take on their roles flawlessly. I particularly enjoyed Gerald, who goes about hiding his unemployment from his wife. He reluctantly joins the men but ends up becoming invested and loyal to them as they get glimpses into each others’ lives. One of my favorite moments is when the men go over to Gerald’s house to practice getting nude in front of each other. It is at that moment that collectors come to take Gerald’s television, but the other men stand up for Gerald despite being naked. It shows an understanding and solidarity that people in every walk of life desire. Unemployment and poverty are terrible, but having people there with you who understand your situation can make a big difference.
The men are essentially searching for a way to get their self-worth back. It is ironic that they somehow achieve this by stripping in front of a bunch of women. Many people would find it demeaning and uncomfortable. Indeed, we see Dave struggle with the idea of stripping down in front of a room full of women because he is a little heavy-set. He imagines everyone judging him and laughing. He makes a decision to overcome his insecurities when he realizes that he would rather be “jiggin’ about in the buff” than enduring the duties of a security guard.The Full Monty makes a statement that nakedness is not nearly as bad as joblessness. The men would rather be earning money dancing around naked then spending endless days at the job office.
The final scene is the one we all expect. The six men strip down and triumphantly expose their junk to the audience of ladies. It might be disappointing for some that we only get the view from behind, although I did not mind seeing it unfold that way. However, I do wish they would have included a moment after the dance when we see how the men feel after having exposed themselves so completely. Overall, The Full Monty was a charming film about the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.