It’s 1997. Princess Dania met her fate, Heaven’s Gate went to their ‘paradise’ and Pokemon started airing on April Fool’s Day. In the realm of film… it was a bit of a mixed bag. There were masterpieces like Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke and there was Perfect Blue (a film perfect for the whole family). At the same time, it was also the year of Home Alone 3, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, and Batnips and Robin. However, there was one film from the UK that did surprisingly well and even landed itself on the Best Picture Nominations (I would question how, but the Oscars are more rigged than a pop-up carnival). Said film? The Full Monty.
Set in Sheffield in the then-present 1990s, a divorced, jobless man needs to scrape together enough to pay off his child support. Not wanting his son to be stuck with his ex wife and her new partner, he (as well as his coworker, boss, and several people he hired) decide to strip for money. If only this was made in the modern day. Then they all would have just joined OnlyFans. Or Twitch, if they had a pool.
So, let’s talk about the positives. Firstly, the humour. Honestly, when I first heard of this movie, I thought this was going to be lowbrow humour at its worst. How wrong I was. Said humour is really good. It’s dark, which I always find is hard to do well, but I think it succeeds. The best joke in the film is definitely the introduction to one of the characters. The lead’s friend (Dave, played by Mark Addy) comes across another character’s broken down car, unaware that he’s planning on killing himself. He fixes the car and walks off, not putting two and two together until he starts walking away. Obviously, he saves him, but when he gets no thanks he just throws him back in.
Another strong point is the main lead, Gaz, played by Robert Carlyle. I think he does a strong performance considering it’s a character that has certainly been done before in multiple stories. You know — the parent who does bad things and drags their kid along, but does it to spend time with them (and make some money). It’s certainly not a new concept, but I think Carlyle does a good job with this character. The film makes it clear that his kid is really the only thing he has in his life. He’s divorced, unemployed, and spends most days in a job centre with the rest of his unemployed friends. His child is frankly the only thing that really gives him happiness — making his entire character arc totally logical.
But now, let’s go to the negatives. One thing I think drags this movie down is the fact that we don’t really get to know most of the other characters. Obviously Gaz is the main character, thus the one we spend the most time with. Outside of him, there’re only really two characters who are given a similar amount of screentime. The previously mentioned Dave (who has insecurities over stripping because of his weight) and Gerald (Dave and Gaz’s previous boss, played by Tom Wilkinsons). He’s stripping because (surprisingly) he’s unemployed and has been lying to his wife that he is employed, and getting money by borrowing from the mob. Other than that, most of the characters aren’t really given any explanation for their actions. Sure, they’re jobless and need some money — but that’s really it. The only real character to be slightly fleshed out is the aforementioned suicidal car man (Lomper, played by Steve Huison), but the character stuff with him is very minor.
Just two quick nitpicks about the film. Firstly, Gaz’s kid, Nathan, witnesses a lot he shouldn’t be seeing. Sure, the film does sort of establish that he’s mentally older, as established by him drinking leftover alcohol. And with the Internet nowadays, I would say kids are getting exposed to a lot of things they shouldn’t at that age… but still, at one point he sees a man’s johnson and is witness to his dad’s first attempt at stripping. Granted, Gaz only gets to showing off his nips, but still!
As for my second point, something that doesn’t make sense the more you think about that. One of the later plot points is that most of Sheffield learns about them stripping and it just doesn’t really make sense. Nowadays, sure. News spreads quicker than a certain something from 2020. But, in 1997, back when the internet was barely a decade old and still required dialup? Yeah, word wouldn’t get around that quick. And, yeah, it’s spread by word of mouth and a lot of people (mostly policemen) do see it, but still. It’s not like Sheffield is a small town, where everyone knows everyone. It’s a fairly big place with a population of 517,836 at that time. Also, it’s shown that this story is printed in newspapers. It does explain how it spreads this quickly, but is it really newsworthy? Five men stripping in an abandoned warehouse? ANARCHY! Sure, there are news sources that either print small events that they treat over proportion, or outright lies… But enough about The Sun.
In conclusion, it’s a good film. It’s certainly not perfect, but it’s not bad either. It’s a film that, if it was on, I would probably rewatch. However, this does not compare in the slightest to the big cinematic success of 1997. The one that broke box office records and won multiple Oscar categories, including Best Picture. This film is still held up as the height of cinema. I am, of course, referring to The Wiggles Movie. Cinema never peaked again — except maybe with Shrek 2.
Review by Jacob James
The Full Monty is showing at Wellington Orbit on Tues 26th April 2022 in the Cults and Classics slot. Book Tickets…