“The full Monty” is a British phrase meaning full frontal nudity. That might explain the movie’s rabid popularity in England.
No, even with a lesser title, this movie deserves its popularity.
The movie starts with an industrial film from 25 years ago hyping the economic paradise of the steel town of Sheffield. The film jumps 25 years forward to two friends stealing scrap metal from the now-closed factory. Hard times have since fallen on Sheffield and the people are desperately unemployed.
On their way home from their unsuccessful visit to the steel factory, Gaz (Robert Carlyle) uses a poster for the visiting Chippendale Dancers to illustrate the ironies of unemployment to his friend Dave (Mark Addy). But the poster gives Gaz an inspired idea on how they can make some money. They’ll put on their own strip show, but they’ll offer something Chippendale’s doesn’t: The Full Monty!
Dave is reluctant and self-conscious, but decides to humor Gaz, thinking the notion will pass. But Gaz persists.
In one of the movie’s many visually funny scenes, Gaz does a great striptease in an old garage to show his friends how it’s done. What makes the scene so funny is that Gaz is so good at the you-know-you-want-me, over-the-shoulder look. Until now, Gaz has been your average, former steel worker, guy. Suddenly, he has all the right moves and all the right looks. The change is so unexpected and so well executed, we can’t help but laugh.
Gaz hires more and more out-of-work steel workers; some for their dancing, some for their moves, and one of them for his . . . . uh . . . . Monty. Soon there are enough of them to stage a show.
The story is rather predictable, but that doesn’t detract from the movie any. It still has just the right mix of comedy and sympathy. Its characters are funny, but they are not made fun of.
For example, Gaz and Dave cause another character to flub a job interview. The way they do it is hilarious (another one of those great visually comic scenes), but the victim is human, and when we see the joke from his point of view, it’s more painful than funny.
And when they remove their clothes, we can see the dancers’ insecurities. We laugh not because they are the butt of a joke, but because they can laugh at themselves in an awkward and uncomfortable situation.
The only flaw I perceived was that the ending of the movie was too abrupt. After an entire movie leading up to one inevitable climax, I would have liked a little more time to come down.
If you do go see The Full Monty, there is an interesting question to ask yourself afterwards. Could the movie have worked if the sex roles were reversed. Would it be possible to make a comedy about “average” women becoming strippers to earn a little money?