Film Scouts Reviews

"The Full Monty"

by Richard Schwartz

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The opening line to the description of "The Full Monty," with phrases such as "post-Thatcherite Sheffield" and "welfare recipients," doesn't exactly make one want to jump out of his seat. "Aw, not another bloody 'Brassed Off,'" some were heard to moan, waxing reminiscent of another 1997 British export that explored similar downcast conditions. "Not another story about the triumph of human spirit amid the grey skies and frozen rain of Hertfordshire."

Oh, but "The Full Monty" is not about that at all. Rather, Mark Cattaneo's film tells the story of five men on the dole who, ashamed of their present situation and desperate to eke out a living, band together to pursue an outlandish financial endeavor. Their idea: perform a choreographed striptease at the local pub and make money by taking it all off, showing "The Full Monty," as it were.

The results are nothing short of uproarious. Sharp pacing and snappy colloquy - when decipherable - complement the screwball physical comedy of the men's dance routines. Really, though, the accents aren't much of a problem. It's comparable to watching an old Benny Hill rerun. You might not be able to understand all of the heavy-tongued dialogue, but you laugh anyway because you sense it's funny.

As the protagonist Gaz, Carlyle proves he can appear as likeable as he was loathsome in his turn as tough-guy Begbie in last year's "Trainspotting." In fact, "Trainspotting" may very well turn out to be a sort of "Anglican Graffiti," the type of landmark picture that serves as a farm system for future superstars. With lead Ewan MacGregor shining in the current "A Life Less Ordinary" and the lesser stars signed up for big-budget pictures, Danny Boyle's film about the manic life of heroin addicts is certain to gain greater significance with each passing year.

The rest of the men are charming as well, particularly Tom Wilkinson as the tortured husband who pretends to have an office job in order to please his demanding shopaholic wife. Mark Addy as Dave, a complicated man with bodily insecurities, is perhaps the most interesting of the supporting cast. As one of the first films to confront the touchy issue of male body image, "The Full Monty" should be congratulated not only for discussing the topic but also for doing it in such a refreshingly honest and humorous manner. Perhaps only the British - with both their oh-so-subtle comic tendancies and well-established reluctance to approach such frankly personal territory - could tackle the subject. And it's a good thing they did, for they've provided one of the season's most unlikely comedy successes.

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