In most of the world's developed countries moves towards gender equality corresponded with technological progress. In the same time, economies shifted from manufacturing towards services sector. Thus the predominantly male workforce was deprived of their main comparative advantage over females - physical strength and endurance were qualities seldom needed by secretaries, accountants, lawyers or computer experts. This process not only ruined the social paradigm of male workers bringing food to families' tables, it also brought deep feeling of emasculation. Those socio-psychological phenomena are basis for The Full Monty, 1997 British comedy directed by Peter Cattaneo.
The plot takes place in Sheffield, British city once famous for its thriving steel industry that provided jobs to most of its population. Few decades ago, times began to change and with globalisation and mechanisation demand for large workforce disappeared. Gaz (played by Robert Carlyle) is one of many Sheffield men forced to live without job, ability to pay child support and, finally, self-esteem. One day he notices that the troupe of male strippers have arrived and had successful show in front of local women. Gaz gets an idea to stage similar show of his own. The show would, unlike the professional male strippers, feature local men going "the full monty", in other words, removing every bit of clothes from their bodies. Together with his good friend Dave (played by Mark Addy) he recruits services of his former, now also unemployed, boss Gerald (played by Tom Wilkinson) who just happened to have some dancing experience in the past. Trio recruits few more members and although their talents, looks and dancing abilities leave much to be desired they are determined to go through with their brave but insane scheme.
At first glance, The Full Monty resembles Hollywood's "high concept" comedy, but this bittersweet story about losers determined to retain their dignity and prove their manhood in most graphic way possible benefits from its British origins. Simon Beaufoy's laces the plot with intelligent socio-economic commentary, while bleak setting of decaying industrial town also serves good dramatic purpose – it makes the plight of characters more obvious and their dilemmas more immediate. The Full Monty also benefits from wonderful British cast, including Robert Carlyle who, after impressive role of violent psychopath in Trainspotting uses opportunity play completely different and more sympathetic character. Tom Wilkinson, often reduced to playing standard British villains in Hollywood films, is also excellent in the role of man whose unemployment-related frustration is even greater because of his previous social standing. The Full Monty also benefits from the excellent soundtrack, based on 1970s disco hits that underline contrast between good old times and bleak present.
Even with few unnecessary subplots and lack of conventional catharsis, The Full Monty is very good, charming and thought-provoking film. One of the questions left after this film is – why Hollywood didn't think of this before and created comedy set in Rustbelt. Or perhaps this question has a simple answer – modern American audience doesn't like to be reminded of life's less pleasant realities and American version of The Full Monty is as likely as comedy about Silicon Valley employees having their jobs outsourced to India.
RATING: 7/10 (+++)
(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.films.reviews on March 10th 2004)
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