Rated R...mainly because it's about stripping. If you didn't know that, I have now warned you. The term "the full monty" refers to being completely naked. Oddly enough, for a movie called The Full Monty, you don't actually see the full monty. You see a lot of butts. Both genders, butts. There's also a ton of swearing. I think that the most uncomfortable stuff comes from the fact that most of the lewd behavior happens in front of a kid. That's no good. The movie kind of wants to play both sides of both being progressive and regressive at the same time. R.
DIRECTOR: Peter Cattaneo
What? I've never seen it! It was never on my list of must-see movies, but it is in my Fox Searchlight box set. Also, everyone told me that it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. That's actually pretty accurate. But that's also a little bit dangerous, right? Okay, I suppose this entire analysis is going to devolve (or...evolve?) into moral finger wagging. That sometimes ends up being my bread and butter, but I can kind of guess what direction this essay is going to go.
In terms of quality, I can see that we very quickly left the Slacker era of independent filmmaking. While The Full Monty still has its idiosyncrasies, this is far closer to being a fully realized film, not resting on the restraints of the independent attitudes. There is one thing that I that I think tends to happen in independent cinema, especially when it comes to the more well-established actors. I don't think anyone's performance in this is weak, but it does seem weaker than performances I've seen them do otherwise. I love Tom Wilkinson. He's actually probably one of the better characters in this film. (Tom Wilkinson is not a character, but reworking that sentence will probably do more harm than good.) But I've seen Tom Wilkinson do far better than this. There's something slightly artificial about a lot of the performances. I tend to blame a lot on the '90s and early-2000s. It can't fight back and I'm a bit of a bully. Some of the stiltedness comes from that. But I also really feel that independent directors are afraid to critique major actors and their performances. Yeah, Tom Wilkinson isn't exactly a comic actor, but there are all these moments where the characters in the film are aware that they are in a comedy. I mean, the concept is silly. The movie rides satire pretty hard and doesn't even pretend to be merciful to the people of Sheffield. That's what we have the new Doctor Who for. This is such a lame thing, but I feel that as good as Wilkinson is, he's better than what we got to see.
Okay, now for the high-horse, holier-than-thou moralizing. I took a breather and thought out why The Full Monty kind of irks me. It's not a terrible movie. Overall, I kind of enjoyed it. But The Full Monty is a wildly manipulative movie because of its simplicity. The Full Monty plays on two tropes. The first trope is the father who is losing his son and must do anything to get him back. Over the course of this trope, the dad learns to be a better father and, while he may or may not win back his former spouse, has at least earned her respect. The second trope is abandoning the commonplace to follow one's dream. The protagonist cannot be tied down to a mortal, demeaning job when he has the opportunity to change the world. Mediocrity is the villain in these stories. Those people who have learned to settle down and sacrifice their souls tend to be the bad guys. (By the way, I might have a bigger problem with this trope than I realized until I spelled it out.) The Full Monty plays on both of these tropes, but doesn't allow the characters to actually grow. Let's look at the first trope. Gaz is about to lose his son. His mother hasn't received any money from Gaz for child support and she has married a new gent whom we hate. Okay. But Gaz is actually a bad father. The only point he has on his side is that he loves his kid, but not enough to be self-sacrificing for the kid. Rather, he prides himself on how well he can corrupt his kid. He gets put off when his son asks to go to a match legally instead of sneaking in. His son has a moral compass and that moral compass really skews when he is around his father. Instead, from mom's perspective, she sees her son sad when having to spend time with his dad. When Gaz visits to pick up his son, his son hides, pretending not to hear that his father is there. His mother and stepfather are aware of this and are putting the child's needs first. Yes, Nathe seems to mostly enjoy himself when he is around his father, but he actually vocalizes his frustrations. He's only 12 or so in the movie. It's pretty complex to deal with a father who continually makes poor decisions, especially when it comes to your upbringing. How screwed up is it that Nathe watches grown men, including his father, strip. He is put to work helping these guys put on this show. Similarly, and this bleeds into the next trope, Gaz has the opportunity to take care of Nathe and be involved in his life. The only thing that is stopping him is his pride. His wife has access to a low paying job. However, she says that if he takes that job, he can have Nathe in his life. It's pretty low stakes for Gaz in this situation. Since we're already ankle deep into the second trope, let's follow that line of thinking. The movie touts up the strip show as almost something noble. Because the Chippendale's dancers are out-of-towners, they are seen as evil. We never actually meet these guys. The very concept acts kind of like a Macguffin. Their jobs are this idea that will get everyone rich that is involved. Will it cost them something? Sure. They have to embarrass themselves to make this scheme work. But instead, the performance will be theirs. No one is handing them money. Rather, they have beaten the system that has put them down. That seems like kind of a noble quest, but we have to remember that no one really wants to do this. Gerald, played by Tom Wilkinson, is in a place of desperation. While the scene is pretty funny, Gerald almost has achieved his goal. His goal, from his perspective, is to provide for his family with a good paying job doing something that he is good at. While Gaz sees the job offered to him as insulting (get back to that later), Gerald actually yearns for the job that is taken away from him.
Gaz destroys the lives around him so people worship him. Gaz doesn't want to strip in front of people. What he wants to do is to be better than the Chippendale's dancers and he wants to get rich quick. These are some pretty negative goals. Dave acknowledges that the job offered to him is beneath him. But he also really hates the stripping job. We often see this story with artists and musicians. If Dave was embarrassed to sing in public, but loved music, we could see The Full Monty narrative grafted onto a story about a band. But Dave has this terrible job working as a security guard. The stripping job doesn't make him happy. He actually makes a choice to abandon the stripping job to get the security gig. It's only once he has to save his marriage by being a stripper (yup) is when he realizes that the stripping job has a benefit. Also, this stripping gig proves to be a one night thing. Yeah, it's a get rich quick scheme, but it is very temporary. I actually don't know how a Chippendale's club in Sheffield would actually stay afloat considering how packed it was. Would girls be paying every night to see new shows? Having never been to a strip club (Thank you! I AM a good person!), I highly doubt that the majority of people visiting are regular clientele. It's probably a handful of sad regulars and some bachelorette parties. The thing is...Gaz actually does have one redeeming feature. While he is extremely selfish, he also acknowledges quality of life issues. When Lomper tries to commit suicide, Dave and Gaz instantly befriend him. Yeah, it could be because he is the security guard at the plant they use as a club. Okay, that reads as part of the character. But also, they actually hang out with him. Instead of viewing his suicide as something prevented in the moment, they take care of him. I think that Lomper (I really hope I got the right one) could have been the pivot piece of the entire thing. Following a traditional structure, the boys lose their opportunity to perform and it seems all is lost. They all go their separate ways. I wish it was Lomper who brought them all together. He was suicidal and without friends. If he brought the group back together instead of making it about money, that would have sold the story far stronger. He actually loses his mother, but his character is apparently so well adapted that he doesn't really feel it like we thought. Part of that might come from the fact that he is in a relationship. I don't know. But bringing them together over fame and a sense of being right is a missed opportunity. Lomper is the key to the story. If you look at how The Full Monty kind of perverts good tropes, it's a bit of a bummer that the movie went for laughs instead of addressing more heartfelt issues.
It's also really bizarre from a good v. evil sort of thing. I think you could make a good movie about average joes having to strip. But none of these characters are exactly Fantine. They all seem to have safety nets that they just aren't using. Gaz could work for his ex. Dave could work for the supermarket. Lomper has a job. We don't learn much about Horse (really, in general). Gerald needed to be honest with is wife. There's so many other outs that it doesn't really make them as sympathetic as the movie makes them out to be. It's a scam and a low-stakes scam at best. Does it ruin The Full Monty? Nah. It was fine. I giggled a few times. But it also has the potential to be something bigger. It also really tries getting away with morality murder sometimes. That's always a bit of a bummer.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.