The Full Monty at 25: Stripping Sheffield steelworkers still a crowd-pleasing delight

The Full Monty (M, 91mins) Directed by Peter Cattaneo ****½

Sheffield. Home to cutlery and a football team somewhat bizarrely called Wednesday.

It used to be a boom town when steel was big, but, in the late 1990s, like many towns in England’s north, much of its industry lay dormant.

Unemployment was understandably extremely high, with many men struggling without a job and – seemingly – hope.

Robery Carlyle plays The Full Monty’s Gaz.

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Robery Carlyle plays The Full Monty’s Gaz.

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The Full Monty’s focuses on a group of disparate and desperate ex-Sheffield steelworkers seemingly cast onto the scrapheap, who spend their days travelling to and from job centres they know offer very little chance of actual work.

Gaz (Robert Carlyle) needs money more than most. Behind on his maintenance payments, his ex-wife is threatening to take sole custody of his beloved son, if he doesn’t stump up with the cash pretty sharpish.

Inspiration though, comes from an unlikely source. Stumbling across the working men’s club one evening, to his surprise, Gaz finds it entirely populated by women, all ogling the visiting Chippendales, as they strut their stuff. Sensing the money-making potential of establishing a similar, locally-sourced and based enterprise, he decides to hold auditions for a “stripping troupe”. But with a somewhat shallower talent pool, will they be able to put on a show, let alone sell any tickets?

Released not long after the luridly tacky Showgirls and the ridiculous Striptease, The Full Monty showed Hollywood how a movie about stripping could and should be made with style and charm.

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Released not long after the luridly tacky Showgirls and the ridiculous Striptease, The Full Monty showed Hollywood how a movie about stripping could and should be made with style and charm.

Only the British could have created such a riotous, crowd-pleasing comedy out of such a potentially depressing premise. This could have been a dark little drama about [John] Major’s Britain, but instead it offers feel-good fun that still terrifically entertains 25 years on.

Humour as black as the ace of spades permeates the film (Gaz and his mates destroying someone else’s job interview by staging a Punch and Judy show with his garden gnomes in an adjacent window is a highlight), but they are genuine laughs created by the sheer inventiveness and likeability of the central characters. Just as importantly, they come across as real people facing real problems – everything from obesity to depression, divorce and two left feet.

Released not long after the luridly tacky Showgirls and the ridiculous Striptease, The Full Monty showed Hollywood how a movie about stripping could and should be made with style and charm.

Only the British could have created such a riotous, crowd pleasing comedy out of such a potentially depressing premise.

Supplied

Only the British could have created such a riotous, crowd pleasing comedy out of such a potentially depressing premise.

It was also the film that turned Carlyle into a global star. Sure he’d charmed audiences in Hamish Macbeth, wowed us in Priest with his sensitivity and frightened us with his off-kilter turns in Trainspotting and TV’s Cracker, but Gaz’s heart of gold and eye for a dollar simply struck a chord with cinemagoers everywhere.

Of course, Monty’s real joy (apart from the brilliant, toe-tapping soundtrack that includes everyone from Hot Chocolate and Tom Jones to Diana Ross) was in its ensemble. Mark Addy, Tom Wilkinson, Steve Huison, Paul Barber and Hugo Speer all get their moments in the spotlight and grab them – to unforgettable effect.

The Full Monty is now streaming on Disney+.

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