The Full Monty
Screenplay : Simon Beaufoy
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 1997
Stars : Robert Carlyle (Gaz), Tom Wilkinson (Gerald), Mark Addy (Dave), Paul Barber (Horse), Steve Huison (Lomper), Hugo Speer (Guy), Emily Woof (Mandy), Lesley Sharp (Jean), William Snape (Nathan), Deirdre Costello (Linda)
There has always been something inherently funny about men stripping before an audience. If you don't believe me, look at how women respond to male strippers -- they hoot and yell and jeer and cheer because it's not really erotic, it's just good nasty fun. Something about the male body and the male persona simply doesn't allow men the same freedom of sensuality and seduction that comes when a woman takes off her clothes. Maybe it's because men just don't have the right moves, or as a recent "Seinfeld" episode suggested, maybe the male body is just too "simian" to be really sexy unclothed in the same way a woman's is.
This is the attitude taken in "The Fully Monty," the independent British hit that has already taken the world by storm. The movie follows six unemployed steel workers from the declining industrial town of Sheffield, England who decide they will challenge the time-honored tradition that only women and Chippendales can be successful strippers. Led by the headstrong Gaz (Robert Carlyle), these men -- who are all average-looking at best -- spend their free time in deserted steel mills, watching "Flashdance," listening to disco music, and trying to get their moves down right.
While this is often a hilarious sight to behold, there is something else going on underneath. This is a movie about stripping and the inherently humorous nature of the act, but it is also about how these men learn about themselves and those they love. While it sounds crazy, their decision to bare all in front of everybody forces them to shed their various defenses and insecurities, and come to grips with other aspects of their lives.
For instance, Gaz is struggling to be a father. His 12-year-old son, Nathan (William Snape), just doesn't understand his dad's strange ways, and Gaz's ex-wife (Emily Woof) is trying to get sole custody because he can no longer afford child support payments. Gaz is not the most honest, trustworthy person in the world, but he would do anything not to lose his son. Of course, that anything turns out to be stripping, and as he drops all his facades in order to learn the moves, his son begins to see things in him he's never seen before.
Then there's Dave (Mark Addy), Gaz's overweight best friend who has to come to terms with his apprehensions about his physical appearance before he can shed his clothes in front of others. "The Full Monty" includes several notable scenes that tackle the issues of physical appearance in modern society, especially when the men come to the horrifying realization that women will be judging them by the way they constantly judge women -- not by their personalities, but by how good their bodies look.
The rest of the group includes Horse (Paul Barber), a black man who laments that his breakdancing days may be over; Gerald (Tom Wilkinson), who used to be a mill foreman and hasn't informed his wife yet that he's been out of work for six months; Lomper (Steve Huison), a meek young man who is on the verge of suicide when he is first introduced; and Guy (Hugo Speer), who is probably the most conventionally handsome of the group, but is seriously lacking in the brains department.
"The Full Monty" has found success because it tackles tough issues in a humorous way. By showing how a group of traditionally macho men learn to be better fathers and lovers by putting themselves in a traditionally feminine role is a serious risk for a movie to take. Nevertheless, director Peter Cattaneo pulls it off wonderfully. There are moments of sheer hilarity, but also moments of tenderness. The script by first-time screenwriter Simon Beaufoy builds all these men into real characters who are worth caring about. By the time the movie is drawing to a close, their final act of going "the full monty" is all the more fun because we know they've already been transformed into better men.
©1998 James Kendrick