The Full Monty
One of the most stressful things in a man’s life is to become unemployed. While it is just as devastating for women to lose their jobs most cultures indoctrinate men as the primary providers so the loss of a livelihood often equates to a diminished sense of manhood. In many parts of the world most of the men in any given town have to depend on one particular employer to earn a living. If that job dries up then there are little to no prospects to just change jobs. The 1997 working class comedy ‘The Full Monty’ has been re-released on DVD by 20th Century Fox in a new, fully exposed edition. This film is timeless in its story and remains as full as it was a decade ago. While stripping is normally considered a job of last resort for young women here we get a chance to see what happens when a group of men are force to bare it all to make some cash. The film has pathos and humor mixed in just the right proportions.
In the town of Sheffield, England the steel mill was the major foundation of the local economy. At its peak the town was successful and its men happy to put in a days work and an evening at the pub. When the mill closes down thousands of men are left with no prospect of earning a living. The mill has been around long enough so that most of the men of Sheffield took on the same jobs as their fathers and grandfathers. It was a rite of passage into manhood to take your position at the mill. Now the mill is gone and so is a major part of the way the men of this town defined themselves as men. This was the quagmire of Gaz (Robert Carlyle) and his friends. At first he plots with best buddy Dave (Mark Addy) to pilfer some steel beams from the closed mill but then soon realize that they are not particularly cut out for a life of crime. When Gaz learns that his ex-wife is pressing back child support for their son Nathan (William Snape) he become desperate for some means of fast cash. Nathan is bothered by his father’s lack of direction. Gaz is now unable to provide financially for his son but he is failing on the emotional level as well. One night while Gaz is walking down the street with Nathan and Dave they see a group of women queued up to see a Chippendales show in their local pub. The proverbial light bulb goes off over Gaz’s head and he comes up with the idea of getting a few men together and putting on a similar show.
Now there is the task of getting the troupe together for the show. Gaz and Dave see their former shop foreman Gerald (Tom Wilkinson) taking a dance class with his wife. They ask his to choreographic their act but Gerald turns them down saying he has a job interview and won’t have the time. The guys tail Gerald the next day and watch as he goes into an employment office. Gaz and Dave wait outside the office and distract Gerald so much he loses the job. After a physical altercation Gerald admits that his wife doesn’t know he is unemployed and is spending money at too quick a pace. He reluctantly agrees to help the pair prepare for their stripping debut. Men are recruited into the act. Lomper (Steve Huison) is another man left unemployed by the mill’s closing. He tries to commit suicide but Dave saves him and convinces him to join up. Eventually two more men are added to the lineup; Horse (Paul Barber) and Guy (Hugo Speer) for their real and imagined endowments. The word of their upcoming performance gets out and the local ladies push the men into promising the ‘Full Monty’; total nudity.
The film has heart and that goes a long way to making the story work. Most of us have at one time or another been without a job and the movie uses this to form an empathetic bond with the somewhat zany characters. Here the stripping is the MacGuffin, important to the characters but not vital to the audience. What is important is how unemployment altered the way they viewed themselves as productive men. Director Peter Cattaneo takes what could have easily been a one note comedy bit and fleshes it out to a truly human work. The men are fully developed people with hopes and fears common to us all. The women of the town are shown as forthright somewhat ribald in providing the demand side of this economic equation. Cattaneo paces the film carefully balancing the humor with the more serious emotional content. The comedy comes from a very real place and is able to reach out to the audience. After all few would have thought a film about middle aged male strippers would be successful but Cattaneo pulls it off, no pun intended. The concern here is not being overly funny or trying to have staged dramatic moments. It just shows the lives of these men and what they feel they have to do to make ends meet. While this is a very British comedy it translates well over on this side of the pond.
This cast may not be readily recognizable by American audiences. This actually works in favor of the film. It adds to the plight of the everyday man premise. Robert Carlyle is excellent as the bold and slightly conniving Gaz. He basically plays is role as a man committed to being a good father to his son even though he has the boy run the boom box for their act. Many here is the States will recognize comedic character actor Mark Addy. He was in such films as the Flintstone film sequel and ‘A Knight’s Tale’ and no stars in the successful television sit-com ‘Still Standing’. His versatile abilities are shown here nicely. Addy is usually the one with the quick one liners but here does well as the straight man.
Several studios and distributors are re-releasing films on DVD but few do the job that 20th Century Fox does here. Not only do they pay attention to the technical specifications but this two disc set offers more extra content than most big budget films. The 1.85:1 video is, unfortunately, non-anamorphic. The color balance is good but sometimes a bit on the dark side. The audio is excellent. Not only is there a Dolby 5.1 and DTS sound track but the original British audio is also provided. The audio commentary track features director Peter Cattaneo and actor Mark Addy. They provide an easy going look at what went on during the making of this film. They also give comments on the many deleted scenes included in the set. There is also a series of featurettes that cover just about every conceivable aspect of the production from script development to choosing a director and creating the town of Sheffield. One of the funny featurettes is ‘Translating English to English’. Much of the film has dialogue with a thick northern English accent and very specific use of slang. While this may make the film a little harder to understand for American audiences the feature and most of the extras include an English subtitle track. This is a human, funny film that is well worth adding to your collection.