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United Kingdom 1997
Directed by
Peter Cattaneo
90 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

Full Monty, The

That The Full Monty was a huge box-office hit in the English-speaking world offers an object lesson in how to make a commercially successful film.

Following closely on the heels of 1996’s Brassed Off, The Full Monty once again gives us a story of a group of loveable working class scalliwags, the casualties of the winding-down of Northern England manufacturing industries. We’re back in Yorkshire but this time in Sheffield and as a quaintly naive mid-60s promotional film spruiking the glories of the region tells us, steel was the driver of the town’s economy.  But it’s now 25 years later and the steel mills have pretty much all closed.

Like Brassed Off, The Full Monty is a feel-good story of a group of characters (all male in its case) redeeming their self-esteem. But Peter Cattaneo’s film is less politically-grounded than Brassed Off with no axe to grind about Thatcher and no real attempt to connect its objective, putting on a Chippendales-style performance to earn some readies, to a change in the men’s social and economic conditions. The main characters, Gaz (Robert Carlyle) and Dave (Mark Addy) are both unemployed but one feels that their problems, meeting child support payments in Gaz’s case and being a big fat loser in Dave’s case, stem more from their personalities than their material conditions. There is a more direct connection in the case of Gerald (Tom Wilkinson) who has been pretending for six months to his wife that he has been going to work. But his managerial qualifications sees him restored to employment and the strip night comes off simply as an improbable piece of mateship. I'd love to see a sequel The Full Monty: When The Cash Is Gone done in a realist style, with Gaz just out of nick, Dave divorced and Gerald having nothing to do with either of them.

Glibness aside what really drags the film down, from a critical if obviously not a commercial point of view, is the film’s reliance on the formulaic with superficially sketched characters in familiar set-ups (the similarity to Brassed Off might be Zeitgeist coincidental) presented with complete lack of subtlety by director Cattaneo. That it was so commercially successful, its title effectively passing into popular culture, says more about audience sensibilities than the film itself. That it was nominated for Academy Awards as Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay beggars belief but such, it seems, is the power of popularity (it won none, albeit in a strong year that included Titanic and Good Will Hunting as fellow nominees).

FYI: Although Carlyle was given top billing his career pretty much peaked with this film and he gradually drifted back to television.. Director Cattaneo who was unable to reproduce the success of the film did likewise. Wilkinson however who had largely worked in television prior to this reversed the trend and has never looked back. 




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