The Full Monty (1997)
Starring: Robert Carlyle, Mark Addy, William Snape, Steve Huison, Tom Wilkinson, Paul Barber, Hugo Speer
Directed by: Peter Cattaneo
In the interests of full disclosure, I will admit that I’m reviewing this movie because the promotional team behind the marketing of the new Fully Exposed Edition DVD contacted me, having read a review I’d written here, and asked if I’d review the movie in exchange for a free copy of the DVD. But, hey, they already sent me the DVD, so I’m free to write an honest review! It’s not like they’re going to make me send it back if I give it an unfavourable review (and if I wanted to write an unfavourable review, I wouldn’t mind if they did).
Of course, the main reason I agreed to write the review in exchange for a free DVD is that I’d already seen the movie, and had always considered buying the movie for myself. I saw it when it came out, even though at the time I didn’t think it would be my kind of movie. I’m not big into Brit humour, and as a 19-year-old, a movie about six middle-aged dudes turned strippers didn’t really appeal to me. But I had seen the other four Best Picture nominees for the year, so I figured I should complete the five (which was the first time I had ever done so, and wouldn’t do so again until three years ago). I ended up loving it, and would later own it on VHS. I think the main reasons I never bothered to buy it again on DVD is that the original DVD was an unappealing bare bones edition, and I was worried that the film wouldn’t age well.
Some of the humour in The Full Monty doesn’t age as well as one would hope, as what seemed risqué ten years ago comes off as quaint and tame today, and some of the big laughs rely on shock appeal that can’t be replicated in subsequent viewings. However, as a whole, the movie still retains most of its original charms, and when you get past the initial shock value, the heart of the movie reveals itself better. The thing I always liked best about the movie is its treatment of male relationships, how the guys easily support each other without forced scenes of them discussing their feelings.
Beyond the humour, which is still quite charming, the movie is an excellent examination of gender roles and the pressure men feel to fit into roles society has set up for them. The movie is set in Sheffield, England, in the post-Thatcher recession period. The city’s main industry, steel, has dried up, and with it came layoffs of the main characters Gaz (Robert Carlyle), Dave (Mark Addy), and Gerald (Tom Wilkinson). Each man has to deal with the implications of being a man unable to provide for his family, be it Gaz with his son Nathan (William Snape), whose mother wants full custody of as Gaz is behind in support payments, Dave with his wife Jean (Lesley Sharp), who is the sole breadwinner in the house, and spends a Friday night checking out Chippendale’s dancers at the local pub, or Gerald with his wife, from whom he keeps his unemployment secret while trying to keep her in the style in which she is accustomed.
It’s a theme that has always resonated with me, the defining manliness that comes from earning one’s keep. In my head, I realise that gender bias and roles are social constructs that have done more harm than good, but I still hold myself to a certain standard, to “be a man”, even while I accept that others need not be held to that standard (especially since the flipside of the standard suggests that if there is a defined role for men, then there must be a defined role for women, which I know to be bullshit). It’s this internal struggle of the pressures of manhood versus the role reversal of having average men offering themselves up to be objectified that gives the movie its heart and substance. The men not only have to worry about the emasculating nature of losing their jobs and families, but also the traditionally feminine concern of body image.
While Carlyle’s Gaz is the star of the film, he’s the one who comes up with the crazy scheme of getting some lads together to strip for money, the highlights in the cast are Addy as the self-conscious Dave and Wilkinson as the stuffy Gerald. Each bring a great deal of humanity to their roles, ensuring that the movie succeeds past the physical humour it offers. The humanity is what allows the movie to rise above some of its more clichéd moments, which are framed by some genuinely funny sequences that still deliver laughs after many viewings (the best of which is the scene where the guys are waiting in the unemployment line, and are overcome by a Donna Summer song that leads to them casually dancing in unison. Really clever scene).
All in all, The Full Monty is a crowd-pleasing comedic romp with enough humanity and heft to leave a lasting impression and continue to entertain even after one gets past its more outrageous scenes. It’s a small comedy featuring solid performances that has aged well over the past ten years, with as much to say about male relationships and gender roles as it does the inherent humour of six middle-aged lads performing strip tease routines.
BONUS DVD REVIEW:
As for the Fully Exposed Edition DVD, I think its a significant upgrade from the original DVD release, featuring two audio commentaries, a Music Machine feature that allows you to skip to scenes featuring certain songs or dance sequences, a second disc featuring ten different featurettes, including a look at the British Film Industry in the 90s, and cast interviews. Whereas the original DVD release boasted of its… interactive menu. So, yeah, I’d say this is an upgrade. For me, this release would be a significant improvement from the original even without these features, for the simple fact that it boasts not only a Dolby 5.1 audio track, but also a dts track, whereas the original offered… Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround. Which is terrible. Not even worth watching in my opinion. So, yay Fully Exposed Edition!