August 1, 2015
The Full Monty (1997)
Grade: 82/100

Director: Peter Cattaneo
Stars: Robert Carlyle, Mark Addy, Tom Wilkinson

What it's about. A comedy set in a working class English city, impoverished by the recent closure of a large steel factory. No one works, and everyone is on the dole. Gaz (Robert Carlyle) and Gerald (Tom Wilkinson) are desperate, for different reasons. The divorced Gaz is trying to retain joint custody of his adorable preteenaged son Nathan (William Snape). Gerald has yet to inform his spendthrift wife that he has lost his job.

Gaz notices that when the Chippendale dancers hit the town, they pack the local club with hooting women. Gaz decides that he can make a quick score in similar fashion, and recruits several fellow hapless lads (chubby Mark Addy, suicidal redhead Steve Huison, well endowed Hugo Speer, and aging amateur black dancer Paul Barber) to train as "full monty" strippers. Addy fails to inform his wife Jean (Lesley Sharp) of his shenanigans, which leads to misunderstandings.

How others will see it. A low budget movie wisely acquired by 20th Century Fox, The Full Monty was a massive sleeper hit, eventually earning more than $200 million in worldwide box office. It briefly became the top-grossing film in British history, though soon surpassed by Titanic.

Critical praise was showered on The Full Monty, unusual for an R-rated comedy. It received a remarkable 12 BAFTA nominations, winning in four categories including Best Actor (Carlyle), Best Supporting Actor (Wilkinson), and the biggest prize of all, Best Film. Even the staid Academy Awards bestowed Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay nominations.

Today at, though, the user rating is surprisingly low at 7.2 out of 10. A gender spread is consequential (7.1 from men versus 7.5 from women). The highest grades (7.9) come from my favorite demographic, women over 45, due to its independence from group think.

The chief public criticism comes from English blokes who believe their working class is misrepresented. Fortunately, most viewers lightened up, and praise the pluck of our unemployed heroes.

How I felt about it. The movie, as made, could not have been American, because the presence of underaged Nathan would cause the arrests of the buff dancers. But it is English, as we can tell by the moderately challenging dialects. This isn't Trainspotting, though. Subtitles aren't required to follow the plot.

For a comedy, there is no shortage of serious topics: unemployment, poverty, impotence, homosexuality, and the duress of child support. The latter topic remains underexplored. It is all too easy to assign the label of "deadbeat dad" to a man who simply can't come up with court-ordered payments.

Some parts of the plot don't quite work. Dave is overweight, and while that might give him stage fright, it should have little to do with his impotence. Which would not be resolved by stripping, in any event.

Gaz and Gerald are antagonistic in early scenes. Gerald, a former plant foreman, resents being downgraded to the same class as Gaz. It seems unlikely that Gaz would recruit Gerald as a dance instructor, since his knowledge consists of sedate ballroom routines, and even less likely that Gerald would accept the position. The last minute star turn of Gaz refusing to strip with men in the audience is also dubious. He needs the money, and he can hardly back out now.

But it is believable that the local women would fill the club to see their homely local men strut their stuff. They have two motives: curiosity and gossip, and the Chippendales probably aren't due for another few months anyway.