Robert Carlyle and William Snape in The Full Monty (1997)

Magic Monty

Out of the thousands of movies I have watched, there are very few which I could honestly say I could watch every week without getting tired of them. One of these is "The Full Monty", a low budget Brit flick from 1997, which despite some significant flaws is one of the most popular movies to have been come out of Britain. I say significant flaws, as looking at it from a purely technical aspect; it suffers from quite a simple plot, performances which would suit your average TV drama and to be totally blunt, it is not at all complex in any sense of the word. But before you think I am slagging "The Full Monty" off, it is the fact that it's honest and simple in its approach, not trying to be anything more than a fun and amusing look at life, which makes the film so exceptionally enjoyable.

Having lost his job due to the closure of the Sheffield Steel works, jack-the-lad Gaz (Robert Carlyle - 28 Weeks Later) is struggling to find the money to pay his ex-wife her child support payments. After witnessing the phenomenal success of the famous stripping act, The Chippendales, at a local club, he devises a plan to form his own stripping act in the search of some quick, easy money. With the help of his best friend Dave (Mark Addy - Robin Hood), a slightly rotund chap who is suffering from low self-esteem and their former foreman, Gerald (Tom Wilkinson - 44 Inch Chest) who is trying to make ends meet whilst not telling his wife that he no longer has a job, they set about fine tuning their stripping skills with the aid of some other misfit friends.

William Snape, Robert Carlyle and Paul Barber in The Full Monty (1997)

Whilst the main theme of "The Full Monty" may appear to be the journey of these unemployed men as they prepare themselves for their big performance as male strippers, you would be completely wrong if you think this is going to be on an erotic par with the likes of "Striptease" and "Showgirls". In fact the eroticism is non existent as one of the running jokes throughout the film is that this band of misfit men, ranging from the chubby to the old, are the least likely of sex symbols to make any women pay money to see getting naked. But if you look deeper underneath this covering plot, "The Full Monty" is made up of several individual plot lines surrounding the individuals in the group. You have Gaz who despite his apparent laziness will do anything for his son, even if it means stripping in front of a crowd of screaming women. Then you have his best friend Dave, who since being made unemployed is suffering from low-esteem which is affecting his relationship with his wife. Then on top of this you have Gerald, who is hiding the truth from his wife that he is no longer employed, whilst she is still leading an affluent life style.

These are not the only plot lines, and the other remaining members of the troop also have storylines which look at depression leading to the feelings of suicide as well as homosexuality. But whilst these storylines may look quite diverse and in reality quite depressing, "The Full Monty" does a magnificent job of handling them in such a way that it comes across as being light hearted with out trivialising the importance of them. It is the down-to-earth, but amusing look at how unemployment affects these men which makes this films plot that little bit more enjoyable than other similar films, such as "Brassed Off".

A huge part of "The Full Monty" success is in the humour which dominates the film, with a decent mixture of visual and vocal jokes. Unlike some films which seem to throw gags at you left right at centre in blatant attempts to make you laugh, the humour naturally flows through out the film and not once do you feel that a scene has been contrived just in a blatant attempt to place a certain gag that the writers felt was funny. Right from the opening sequence which sees Gaz and Dave trying to steal a girder from a closed down factory, through to the now famous impromptu dance routine in the job centre queue, there is not a single scene which does not make you smile or laugh, which is quite a remarkable feat. It is no surprise that with a film which is about male stripping that we get are fair share of cock gags, but whilst some films would go over the top with crudeness "The Full Monty" manages to insert these with out offending anyone whilst still managing to raise a titter.

But it is without doubt the interesting characters and decent performances which make "The Full Monty" the success that it so rightly deserves to be. What also helps is that prior to the films launch, the main cast were relatively unknown allowing you to not compare them to previously performances, except for Robert Carlyle who was already famous for his performance in "Trainspotting" and Paul Barber who was a familiar face in the BBC sitcom "Only Fools and Horses". Although through the success of "The Full Monty" many of the cast have now become house hold names and regularly appear in big name films. But it is not so much who was playing the characters but the actual characters themselves, which like the film in general, are all down to earth characters with real life issues. From Gaz who is struggling with child support payments, through to Dave who is suffering from low self-esteem, each one of these characters are representative of real people that I am sure most of us can relate to.

Praise should also go to the cast, who manage to also keep their performances real and whilst there are some scenes which do push the levels of reality slightly, for the majority of "The Full Monty" not a single performance seemed over the top or as if they were competing with each other for the limelight. In fact you get a real sense of a team effort from the stars, and I would imagine that they had plenty of fun making this movie. Also for those who enjoy "Coronation Street" watch out for a funny appearance from Bruce Jones, who plays Les Battersby in the soap, as a wannabe stripper.

I would also steep a lot of praise on director Peter Cattaneo who manages to steer away from the stereotypical approach to British films where they over play the "it's bleak up north" route. Whilst he does paint a picture of how depressing life is, he doesn't throw it in your face and only uses it to set the scene and provide the reasoning behind the men's actions. I would also steep praise on the fact that the film moves along at such an enjoyable pace, that there is not a single moment where you feel anything is being dragged out or skimmed over.

Of course it would be impossible to forget about the absolutely brilliant soundtrack which includes "Hot Stuff" by Donna Summer, "I'm The Leader of the Gang" by Gary Glitter, "Make me smile" by Steve Harley and most importantly the song which has become synonymous with the film "You Sexy Thing" by Hot Chocolate. "The Full Monty" soundtrack is one of the most enjoyable I have heard in a long time and to be totally honest I often put the film on as background noise so that I can enjoy the great songs.

What this all boils down to is that despite its low budget and earthy feel, "The Full Monty" is in my opinion, on par or even better than the majority of recent British films, this is mainly down to its simple and honest approach. The main plot may not be the most complex but with the additional sub plots it is more than enough to make a decent basis for the film and is firmly based in reality. Add to this some interesting characters and decent yet simple performances and you have a very enjoyable film. But the real crowning glory to the film comes from the simple but highly amusing humour and the exceptional soundtrack. All these elements have merged together under the skill of director Peter Cattaneo to make what is in my opinion, an absolute brilliant, feel good movie.