Monday, March 05, 2007

Late, late, late review - THE FULL MONTY

I grew up in the the prosperous South-East of England, but in the early 1980s even I remember people collecting money to support the striking miners, news headlines of ever record-breaking unemployment and race riots. It's easy to forget in the anodyne political landscape of contemporary Britain - when political parties compete over environmental credentials, but are all of a mind on NHS privatisation - just how socially divided Britain was in the early 1980s. It is especially criminal to forget the high price of the "structural reforms" that helped deliver today's low inflation and cheap mortgages. Behind the euphemism was a generation of working-class blue-collar employees who woke up one day and found themselves in dinosaur industries - no longer worth the bother of sustaining. Among them were the steelworkers of Sheffield, who form the band of desperate, emasculated, unemployed men at the heart of THE FULL MONTY.

The movie is now ten-years old and is being released in a Special Edition DVD full of more extras than any fan could possibly know what to do with. (Fun for UK film fans to see Derek Malcolm on screen, though.) It's never before been the case that I've willingly pocketed swag for a dead cert positive review, but in the case of THE FULL MONTY I had no moral objection to graft. Ten years after it's initial release - after the Oscar noms, the ubiquitous sound-track and West End show have died away - it's nice to go back to the original film and remember what made it so good.

The enduring worth of the movie is to give a modern audience an insight into the sheer horror of long-term, hopeless unemployment when for us unemployment is basically non-existent. For at heart, THE FULL MONTY is about a bunch of men whose self-esteem is damaged when they can't support their families, maintain their status and provide for their kids. Is there anything more tragic than a former manager, played brilliantly by
Tom Wilkinson lying to his wife about his job - surely, lying also to himself? Or Robert Carlyle willing to do a striptease in order to earn the cash to see his son? It goes to the very heart of a person.

But the popular success of the film surely comes from the rich vein of black humour that offsets the surprisingly grim drama. (More grim than I had remembered, at least.) Alan Bleasdale had already ploughed this path with his brave and pioneering TV series,
THE BOYS FROM THE BLACKSTUFF and there is certainly nothing as dark or as surreal as his tales in THE FULL MONTY. But there are enough nudge-nudge sex gags, prat-falls and buddy-humour-moments to keep us - and the characters - going. Not to mention a satisfyingly toe-tapping nostalgic score. Altogether then, a rare occasion when critical and popular opinion - awards, box office success and an enduring legacy - have combined.

1 comment:

  1. Despite the drama, this movie is great.

    Keep doing this nice blog.

    Carlos - Brazil