The Full Monty

Memphis Flyer

DIRECTED BY: Peter Cattaneo

REVIEWED: 09-22-97

The Full Monty is about as substantial as a red satin G-string, the key garment of the film. And, yet, this threadbare charm is exactly what it's got going for it.

The Full Monty is all about the gimmick, nothing more, nothing less. The gimmick in this case is that six very unlikely Englishmen are going to strip. What makes them unusual exotic dancers is that they are each in some way too old, too fat, too clumsy, too shy, or too dignified. All they have, really, is sheer will or, at least, their willingness to go "the full Monty," their chosen slang for completely nude.

The striptease is the harebrained scheme hatched by Gaz (Robert Carlyle), an out-of-work steelworker, who happily breezes the days away with his chubby pal Dave (Mark Addy), either smoking and playing cards down at the employment office, kicking a soccer ball around, or engaging in petty thievery. Unfortunately, none of these pull in any real income, so when his ex-wife tells him he can't see their son until he pays his share, he's forced to act. Gaz comes to the idea of stripping when he passes a club filled to capacity with women screaming over the Chippendales dancers, and he thinks, Why not?

So Gaz sets about gathering his crew. Of course, there's Dave, and he quickly picks up Lomper (Steve Huison), mainly because he and Dave have saved him from suicide, plus he's got a place to practice. They are joined by Gerald (Tom Wilkinson), their stuffy former foreman who knows ballroom dancing, and the simpleminded Guy (Hugo Speer), who's chosen for a certain rather large physical attribute and in spite of his lack of dancing skill. Finally, there's Horse (Paul Barber), a man well past his prime but who still knows how to do the bump, the mashed potato, and other dances.

The Full Monty is a genial, easygoing film. Instead of overwhelming with too much slapstick, director Peter Cattaneo and writer Simon Beaufoy take their time establishing each of the characters, introducing the thing that eats at their egos so that the audience can feel some attachment. The men seem to keep circling in place, as they meet various crises that threaten to shut down the one-night-only gig -- the fear of embarrassment and an arrest for indecent exposure, among them. And just as you're convinced that The Full Monty really will go nowhere, suddenly there you are, and there are the men wearing nothing but their smiles.

--Susan Ellis

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