Peter Cattaneo's "The Full Monty" (1997) emerges from UK to illustrate the country's unemployment and the toll it takes on an individual and his family. But, the working-class woes are told with rib-tickling humor and light drama. The film expresses the ways in which joblessness imparts to a malaise of mind, body and spirit. This isn't an ambitious movie, but offers a lot of opportunities for laughter and genial smiles.
Sheffield is a major steel working city in England. Thanks to Thatcherism (political style of the British conservative politician Margaret Thatcher), the central industry has been mechanized and modernized. Productivity improves drastically, but the automation sends a lot of workers to home. Among these workers are Gaz (Robert Carlyle) and his best friend Dave (Mark Addy). Gaz drifts around the town with his 12-year old son, Nathan (William Snape), occasionally going to the local job-center. Gerald (Tom Wilkinson), Gaz's former boss is also unemployed. He frequently visits the job-center but is scared to tell his credit card-obsessed wife that he doesn't have a job.
Gaz is divorced and he quickly needs to find a way to support his ex-wife, Mandy (Emily Woof). Everything changes when Chippendale -- a group of dancers -- arrives to a local club for a show. Inspired by them, Gaz gets an idea that they should do a strip act to raise some money (the film's title is Brit slang for taking it all off). He first enlists his overweight buddy Dave and Gerald who has an superior quality because he's once taken dance lessons. This ridiculous scheme somehow manages to draw in a few forsaken, out-of-work friends, who are either nerdy, over-weight or middle-aged. They hold a hilarious audition and eventually recruit an unlikely group of dancers: an old man with rhythm, but a bad hip (Paul Barber), a gifted young man (Hugo Speer) and a lone wolf (Steve Huison).
Peter Cattaneo's direction lacks in depth but the moments of sheer hilarity makes up for good will and likeability. This movie is the career debut for Academy Award Winning script writer Simon Beaufoy ("Slumdog Millionaire"). He has created vulnerable, real characters who are worth caring about. His script is not about the sudden rise of unemployment but rather concentrates on masculinity. Simon suggests that these men by losing their jobs have also lost all sense of themselves as men (hence the stripping acts).
Robert Carlyle of "Trainspotting" fame brings a nervous energy to Gaz and has the right mix of energy and pathos. Tom Wilkinson is perfect as the middle-class guy, who has his share of one touching scene when he drops his arrogant bearing and acknowledges his weaknesses. As Dave, Mark Addy (Robert Baratheon of "Game of Thrones") brings out the insecure feeling that anyone else can relate to.
The movie is about the act of male stripping and the inherently humorous nature of the act. But, there are lots of other things going on underneath these themes. It deals with parenthood, physical insecurities and unemployment. Somehow their crazy scheme to bare all, forces them to shed their various defenses and insecurities, and come to grips with other aspects of their lives. What make "Full Monty" a populist comedy is the hilarious observations and sequences: When the three get arrested at the factory for indecent exposure, they sit naked and ashamed in the police station while the police watch their performance from a security tape. In the middle of all this chaos, one person complaints to another, "You're ahead"; when the guys are standing in the long unemployment line, they unconsciously start swaying in time to one of their rehearsal songs coming over the P.A.
"The Full Monty" is very much predictable, but it is funny, enjoyable and finds a perfect tone to drive home a valuable message.
The Full Monty -- IMDb