Full Monty, The (1997): British Comedy about Unemployed Strippers as Best Picture Nominee

Starring Robert Carlyle, Mark Addy, and Tom Wilkinson, Peter Cattaneo’s comedy, The Full Monty, follows a group of unemployed steelworkers who seize the opportunity to earn quick cash in a one-night-only, all male strip show.

Grade: B (*** 1/2* out of *****)

Director Peter Cattaneo gives poignancy and heart to this tribute to workingmen caught in an impossibly dire socio-economic situation. (For those who don’t know, the title is the British slang for removing one’s clothes).

Modestly scaled but exuding abundant charm, this film is an antidote to Hollywood’s glitzy, star-driven comedies, joining the league of its British peer, “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” which was also Oscar-nominated, in 1994.

Led by Gaz (Robert Carlyle), the men get in touch with their long-dormant libido and seductive powers as they learn the tricks of the trade. There’s also melodrama in the emotional bond between Gaz and his young son, which imbues the story with “heart,” while the vaudevillian antics of macho guys trying to perfect the art of thrusting their thighs, is the essence of the story.

There are a number of showstoppers, and in the screening I attended, there was a huge applause when the boys, waiting on line in a bank, begin to move, one by one.

The comedy touched a nerve in and outside the industry. Made on an ultra-modest budget (about $3 million), the film proved box-office success, grossing over $40 million. Audiences liked it because of its subject matter, the fear of losing jobs, proving that a “small” film with no-name cast and no special effects can still be a lot of fun. A comedy about out-of-shape British workers stripping out-of-desperation marked a breakthrough for Fox Searchlight as an indie company under the leadership of Lindsay Law.

With its broad appeal and universal issues, and brilliant marketing campaign, The Full Monty spelled its charm everywhere, breaking commercial records in several countries, due to positive word-of-mouth.

The film also benefited from the timing of its release, in the summer, as counter-programming to Hollywood’s blockbusters.

Grounded in the real world and down to earth in its depiction of unemployed but resourceful guys, The Full Monty boasted an undeniably exuberant, feel-good mood.

Rough around the edges, but soft at its center, Full Monty took elements of classic working class British films of the late 1950s and 1960s and turned them into a more comedic and mainstream comedy.  As such, it easier to digest for  viewers of all walks of life, lending the feeling that the primary target audience was not British, but international–a movie made for export.

Men as Objects of Desire: Giving Women Visual and Erotic Pleasure

In baring their bodies–though never really showing frontal nudity, the male figures in the movie–and the male filmmakers behind them–aimed to give largely female viewers the kind of visual and erotic pleasures that male audience were accustomed of getting for decades from mainstream Hollywood pictures.

Ultimately, the film resulted in a global gross of $260 million. Now, you calculate the ratio of input investment (about $3 million) to output rewards.

Oscar nominations: 4

Picture, produced by Uberto Pasolini
Director: Peter Cattaneo
Screenplay (Original): Simo Beaufoy

Original Score (Musical/Comedy): Anne Dudley

Oscar Awards: 1


Oscar Context

Sweeping most (11) of the Oscars in 1997, “Titanic” easily beat out the other four contenders: The American comedy “As Good As It Gets,” the British comedy “The Full Monty,” the youth melodrama “Good Will Hunting,” and the noir-policier “L.A. Confidential,” Curtin Hanson’s period drama that had earlier won all of the critics awards. So much for critics’ power on the Academy voters.