Directed by: Peter Cattaneo
Premise: A group of unemployed British steelworkers put themselves to work by participating in a nude male review.
What Works: The Full Monty is a comedy and it is very funny but it is also very good hearted. Like a lot of successful comedies, it starts from a serious place. The story is set in Sheffield, England which was formally a steel work community but at the start of the story the city has fallen on hard times and the main characters have found themselves without employment. It is from the need to provide for themselves and their families that the story gets going and that need provides a solid foundation for the rest of the film. Although The Full Monty is about a group of men who take up stripping the film is not nearly as lewd as that sounds. The comedy of The Full Monty is mostly based upon the absurdity of the scenario. The narrative follows the show business model as seen in Stage Door and Moulin Rouge! in which a motley crew assembles to put together a performance. Because it follows that formula there aren’t many surprises but that is fine and The Full Monty actually benefits from its familiarity. For some viewers the premise of this film might seem strange and may even be discomforting but in this case the familiar story pattern provides viewers with a handle with which to understand and enter into the story. The film is also able to exceed the predictability of its narrative structure because of the characters. The main actors are very well cast and they all do a nice job. Especially notable are Robert Carlyle, Mark Addy, and Tom Wilkinson. Carlyle’s character is the mouth of the group who can corral the troupe together and sell the act; his fast taking qualities also come into play in the character’s relationship with his son and his need to provide child support and prove to his son that he isn’t a bum give the character a motivation to put on the show. Wilkinson is the brain of the group and he has the distinction of having to overcome social class barriers in order to relate to his fellow performers; this also figures into his motivation to join the performance as he attempts to maintain his standard of living and provide for his wife. The character played by Mark Addy is more sensitive which is appropriate since he is the heart of the group. Addy, as well as the other men, are not the beefcake types who we would expect to see in a male strip show and the film plays on that successfully. This is a film about the challenges and insecurities of men in the postindustrial world but it isn’t macho or piggish. The Full Monty pokes fun at the social expectations of men and it is able to have fun with that while telling a compelling story.
What Doesn’t: The Full Monty is ultimately a light movie and so it does not penetrate its various themes very deeply. The movie is exactly the right depth and length given its scope and tone. That said, the story has some shortcomings in that its characters turn to a short-term solution to a long-term problem. The conclusion of the film works for the movie but these sorts of practical questions linger after it has ended.
DVD extras: The “Fully Exposed Edition” DVD includes commentary tracks, deleted scenes, featurettes, music, and image galleries.
Bottom Line: The Full Monty is a very satisfying comedy. It has some terrific performances and a story that manages to be both dramatically satisfying and very funny.
Episode: #397 (July 22, 2012)