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A top-notch cast shines in The Full Monty

The Full Monty

It seems that once a year, a film with a minimal budget takes audiences by storm. This year, that film is the British comedy, The Full Monty. There is something genuinely appealing about a film that takes human flaws and exploits them in a funny way. All six characters in The Full Monty have some sort of flaw, whether it be physical, mental, or social. Okay, so maybe I shouldn't be calling it a flaw; after all, that would be rude to the cast and to almost every human being on the planet. What I should call it is something apart from the expected. We are all enticed by ads with beautiful women and handsome men in them, and we all would love to be like them. But the truth is: we aren't all like that. In fact, most everyone isn't.

I doubt I have seen a movie like The Full Monty, as it takes a rather liberal look at unemployment. There have been radical films dealing with unemployment before (Set It Off is a very good example), but none have been this entertaining or funny. The film begins by introducing us to Gaz (Robert Carlyle, Priest), an out-of-work steel worker who can't seem to find a job anywhere. His friend Dave (Mark Addy) is also unemployed, and his wife (Emily Woof) is pressuring him to find a job. Gaz also has a son, Nathan (William Snape), but his ex-wife doesn't want him hanging around with his son. Gaz is desperate for money, as is Dave. Waiting in the Job Center, the two start talking about a strip show that all the women seem to love. Gaz suddenly comes up with a brilliant idea: put on their own strip show. Gerald (Tom Wilkinson, also from Priest), an unemployed husband who hasn't told his wife that he is out of a job, overhears Gaz, and laughs in his face. But after Gaz and Dave catch Gerald ballroom dancing with his wife, they plead with him to teach them to dance.

Gerald declines, telling them he doesn't want to strip in front of anyone. Of course, he isn't the only one with doubts about the show. Dave is very apprehensive, as he is self-conscious about his weight. He caught his wife attending the Chippendale's strip show, and is now worried that his appearance isn't good enough for her. Gaz decides to try to help Dave lose some weight, and while jogging one day, they run across Lomper (Steve Huison) who is trying to commit suicide. Dave saves him, and asks him to join the show. However, they still need a coach, and some more guys. Gaz, Dave, and Lomper follow Gerald to his house and beg him to be in the show. After Gerald blows an interview, and desperate for money, he agrees to do it.

The four set up auditions to fill the rest of the spots, and a wide variety of people try out. Only two are chosen: Horse (Paul Barber) and Guy (Hugo Speer). Horse is old, but he still can dance; Guy is young, and what he lacks for in talent, he makes up for in ... physical attributes. These six guys go through a lot to get ready, which ranges from weight loss to expanding the lunchbox (you'll understand what I mean when you see the film). And of course, the thing they most need is an audience, which seems extremely hard considering the physique of the men. Some women laugh at the proposal, but they are silenced when Gaz tells them that they will be going the full monty. This surprises the other guys, who don't care for the idea (especially Horse, who fears living up to his name).

In the end, its not surprising that they go the full monty, as the title assures us that they will. However, how the film achieves this climactic moment is one of pure energy and entertainment. Director Peter Cattaneo films this scene with a Las Vegas-style showmanship, with colorful lights and fun choreography. The only problem with this film lies here, which goes a little melodramatic as both Gaz and Dave have doubts about going out on stage. In the end, all of them do, and it isn't surprising. However, once on stage, the actors have so much fun that they drag the viewers in to experience their exhilaration. And as for the full monty, Cattaneo films the revelation from behind, and then cutting to credits. Some people may think of this as a cop out, but after we have witnessed their experiences, it almost seems unnecessary for the film makers to show us.

The screenplay is intelligently written, with smart and funny dialogue that seems missing from motion pictures these days. Simon Beaufor has written a terrific script that uses realistic situations to create very funny moments. The Full Monty does have a deceptively simple plot, but sometimes a simple plot is the best choice. What it lacks for in depth, it more than makes up for in originality and characters. Films of this sort can be very predictable, but The Full Monty tries its hardest to stray from the obvious. Of course, sometimes the expected is the best way to go (although The Fully Monty does brew up some unexpected twists), and everything in the film succeeds at making its audience feel good. The characters are not gorgeous models, and as a result we can all pretty much relate to them. Instead of seeming pathetic or depressing, these six unemployed men make the film work.

The casting couldn't have been much better. As an ensemble cast, there hasn't been a much better one this year (the only other one comparable is L.A. Confidential's). Lots of people say the cast is unattractive in appearance, but that is their own opinion (and it's wrong-that's my opinion). Robert Carlyle leads the cast, and his performance steals the film. Carlyle gives a star-making performance that will probably make his name big in America, as it is in the UK. However, the biggest surprise of the film is Mark Addy, whose performance has been hailed by critics and audiences alike. His performance balances delicately between goofy and charming. Tom Wilkinson gives yet another great performance as Gerald. Paul Barber has one of the most complex characters, and his performance is quite adequate to equal the others. Steve Huison has the most complicated character, who goes through an entire change of living as he progresses through the story. He finally finds his true self and loves it. It's a brave performance that works. Hugo Speer is probably the most underdeveloped of the six, but Speer adds a lot of compassion and charisma to his nice character. The supporting cast is also very good, but worth mentioning is William Snape, who makes his film debut as Nathan. Snape is quite convincing as a young boy torn between his father's fun-loving sense of style and his mother's strictness. As a whole, however, all of them play off of each other, and they create of one of the most magical groups ever to appear on screen.

The Full Monty is rated R for language and some nudity. The nudity is mainly from behind, and everything else is mainly just talked about. There is one awkward moment towards the beginning of the film when a woman urinates like a man, but other than that, everything in The Full Monty plays out wonderfully. Director Cattaneo has produced a wonderfully feel-good film that has people going back for repeat viewings just to keep the magic in their hearts. It has since become the highest grossing film in the UK, and earned four Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. It would appear that this cast can win more than just viewer's hearts. In a year when an 85 year old ship has stolen records, it's nice to know that a genuinely cheap film can still reach people's imaginations.

**** out of ****

Reviews by Boyd Petrie
Movie Reviews