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I bet even Madonna has difficulty getting her shoes and socks off.

Movie

The Full Monty
(1997)

 

There are certainly much less respectable examples of the modern British dramedy, but that doesn’t mean The Full Monty had any business being Best Picture Oscar nominated. It certainly isn’t in the same class – ahem – as earlier awards darling Four Weddings and a Funeral, even if it made even greater waves at the box office. And that’s what this is about, really: showing the Oscar doesn’t stuffily need to be oozing respect and refinement from every pore.

Besides, if you want to pick a movie that really had no business being in contention that year, look no further than Titanic (the ground for that nomination was laid as far back as The Towering Inferno, though, if not further). It’s also worth noting, as far as the Oscar and British nominees go, that when one was in contention with the Academy, it invariably scooped the Best Film BAFTA (Howard’s EndFour Weddings and a FuneralSense and Sensibility, this: My Left Foot being an exception) although, that’s latterly been taken up by the Best British Film category.

For all its lowbrow, flight-of-fantasy whims, though, The Full Monty isn’t outright disagreeable; it’s larky, formulaic affair, with just enough social awareness – deprived and economically depressed menfolk feeling disenfranchised both sexually and motivationally – and dramatic tension that it doesn’t float away weightlessly under the dour Sheffield skies. I had in mind that I didn’t warm to the movie when I last saw it (the only prior time), that I found the subject matter crass, with content going for the cheap gag or manipulative emotional beat every time. All of which is true, but in its own undemanding way, it’s difficult to disavow The Full Monty entirely.

Robert Carlyle offers a sniff of a diluted Begbie early on in the proceedings, but it has to be remembered he was already a household name as Hamish Macbeth when Trainspotting came out (I tend to forget, at any rate), and his wayward dad Gaz is generally granted good-hearted, well-intentioned appeal. Mark Addy manages to tread the tightrope of humour and sentiment as the overweight member of the group, and his plotline with Lesley Sharp is really quite sweet. Tom Wilkinson, meanwhile, has a D-Fens inspired side story, having kept his redundancy from his wife for six months as debts stack up.

The unlikely – well, I guess the message is that appearances account for only so much – pairing off of Guy (Hugo Speer) and Lomper (Steve Huison) might cynically be viewed as a necessary corollary, given the earlier casual dropping of “poofters” epithets on the part of fancies-himself-as-a-ladies’ man Gaz. Less easily off the hook is the presence of Gaz’s son Nathan (William Snape) at the rehearsals, and I’m not sure fessing up to this (“So your daddy dances in front of you”) really boosts The Full Monty’s credibility. Particularly ironic is that the song preceding the lads’ arrest is Gary Glitter’s Rock and Roll Part 2 (more recently baiting audiences in Joker).*

Simon Beaufoy went on to win an Oscar for the no-more-substantial Slumdog Millionaire, and The Full Monty is undeniably full of cheap lines – “The Lunchbox has landed” – and scenes (Only Fools and Horses’ Paul Barber complaining about his mail-order penis pump), such that you’re under no illusions this derives from same county – give or take a South or West – as Last of the Summer Wine. But there are equally amiable interludes, such as the analysis of Flashdance (“Them joints won’t hold fuck all” observes Addy’s Dave of Jennifer Beals’ welding technique). Director Peter Cattaneo conspicuously didn’t become the next big British director in Hollywood. Anne Dudley managed to win the movie’s sole Oscar for her score (helped out considerably by the division of the music award between drama and comedy from 1995 to 1999).

The Full Monty’s most definitely an awards nominee for being popular, then, rather than being very special in any way, but the best I can say about it is that it avoids any great irritation at such undeserved recognition.

*Addendum 06/09/22: Of course, now drag queens and transgender entertainers are de rigueur at infant schools, so this is entirely innocuous by comparison.

First published by Now in Full Color on 28/05/22.

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