The Full Monty
directed by Peter Cattaneo
(20th Century Fox, 1997)

For the English steelworkers who lost their jobs, the closing of Yorkshire's mills was no laughing matter. For fans of The Full Monty, it's nothing but.

The guffaws begin early, when unemployed steelworker Gary Scoffield (Robert Carlyle) learns how much men can make for wearing very little, or less. That inspires him to put together Yorkshire's own version of the Chippendales, comprised of former steelworkers like himself and his best friend Dave (Mark Addy).

Scoffield and Dave lack only two things to qualify as Chippendales: talent and looks. But the alternatives -- living on the dole and spending their days at the local "Job Club," where no one ever finds a job -- convince Scoffield that it's worth a try, and Scoffield spends most of The Full Monty trying to convince Dave.

Along the way they slip from one silly episode to the next: fixing the motor of a former co-worker without realizing he's trying to use his car to commit suicide; auditioning other laid-off steelworkers to the sounds of "J'taime"; recruiting their hated former foreman, Gerald (Tom Wilkinson), as their choreographer/dance instructor; and performing a Punch-and-Judy show with lawn elves to make sure Gerald doesn't get hired away from them.

It sounds like a one-joke plot, but director Peter Gatteano and writer Simon Beaufoy come up with enough variations on the theme to keep the plot rolling between commit bits.

There's the poster-hanging sequence, in which the "dancers" learn for the first time that they'll be expected to display "The Full Monty," and one dancer's followup phone conversation with his doctor, which can only be described as revealing. Gatteano even manages to wring some laughs from a straight travelogue of Yorkshire which runs behind the opening titles and provides an ironic counterpoint for the depressing scenes to come.

Moreover, Gatteano and Beaufoy provide each steelworker with the motivation to continue in the face of failure and humiliation: Scoffield will lose custody of his son if he doesn't come up with 700 pounds for back child support right fast; Gerald's house is being repossessed a piece at a time because he hasn't told his wife that he's lost his job; and Dave just can't seem to find the fiscal or physical wherewithal to keep his marriage going, despite his wife's best efforts.

The Full Monty is far from the perfect film. It overplays some elements: Dave's attempts to lose weight and Scoffield's attempts to keep Dave in the act. And occasionally it loses its edge and goes for the cute: the cutaway shot to Scoffield's face when he sees his dancers break into their steps while waiting in the unemployment line. It would be a funnier, more subtle scene without it.

But on the whole, The Full Monty succeeds as a Cinderella flick for guys, an ode to everyone who ever fretted about not being able to get a date for the prom.

It won an Oscar for Original Musical or Comedy Score. It could have won for Most Fun and Biggest Heart as well.

[ by Miles O'Dometer ]

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