The small group of citizens we come to know responds to the seriousness of the unemployment dilemma with a heavy dose of denial, humor, and resourcefulness that brings the house down both on the screen and in the theater.

THE FULL MONTY

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


"The Full Monty" opens with flashes of Sheffield, a city of steel and high employment--"the jewel in Yorkshire's crown." Twenty-five years later, the steel mills are rusted ruins, the men are mostly unemployed, and the pride of its citizens is ebbing away. The British have already tackled this grim subject once this year in the wonderful "Brassed Off." Now they've done it again with equally fine results; this one sends the audience out into the night on a wave of laughter and appreciation.

The small group of citizens we come to know responds to the seriousness of the unemployment dilemma with a heavy dose of denial, humor, and resourcefulness that brings the house down both on the screen and in the theater. The gentleness that flavors this movie allows the cast to tuck the audience right in their pockets for the whole ride.

At the heart of things is a tightly coiled spring named Gaz (Robert Carlyle), who is one of those people who does things he shouldn't be doing, and a little bit badly at that. Why else would we meet him, his son Nathan (William Snape), and his friend Dave (Mark Addy), marooned with their car on a tiny floe in the middle of a canal? Absorbing all his father's affection and wrongheadedness, Nathan begs, "Can't we just do normal things?" No, they can't.

Gaz, it seems, is looking for a way to earn money without having to work. If that male strip joint down the street can pull in the crowds, why can't Gaz and his friends? In a hilarious scene, rehearsals begin over Chinese takeout by the lights of a car in the abandoned Milthorpe Steel Works. The team now includes the guys' very proper former foreman Gerald (Tom Wilkinson), and three other men just slightly short of being derelicts.

This grungy crew names itself "Hot Metal--We Dare To Be Bare" and gets serious about doing something extraordinary, "something your average 10-bob stripper doesn't do." By their own description, they are "too old, too fat, and pigeon chested." They are also uproariously funny.

As they begin to realize women will be discussing their bodies, stage fright overwhelms them. Nathan, ever wise beyond his years, has skipped out from under his mother's watchful eye to hold onto those who would dare to waver. By the time the show plays to a packed hall, we know these men well enough to see that their ordinariness has become their courage.

Tom Wilkinson is marvelous as the stuffed shirt softened by a secret. Mark Addy is sweetly poignant as the fat guy sinking into his insecurity. But above all, it's Robert Carlyle, irresponsible father, irrepressible stripper, who propels the movie. He and young William Snape work beautifully together in a father-son friendship in which each takes care of the other according to need without a shred of sentimentality. The words "It's British" are once again becoming synonymous with losing your heart to the movies.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 500
Studio : 20th Century Fox
Rating : R
Running Time: 1h31m


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