Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Oscar Film Journal: The Full Monty (1997)

Welcome to another entry in the Oscar Film Journal, here at Enuffa.com!

This year's awards are just days away and as always I'm behind on the current nominees (five outta ten in the bag), so naturally I'm wasting time looking at old nominees.  

Case in point, the 1997 dramedy The Full Monty, about a gaggle of unemployed steelworkers in Sheffield, England who get the kooky idea to become male strippers.  In doing so they reckon they'll carve out a cushy living, while also gaining self-confidence and an offbeat sense of respect about town.  The film stars Robert Carlyle as Gaz, the mastermind behind the whole plan, who's desperate to come up with child support back payments so his ex-wife doesn't take away custody of their son Nathan.  Gaz's best friend Dave (Mark Addy, in the film's strongest performance) is rather portly and so down on himself, both in terms of his job prospects and his physical state, that he can hardly bear to be touched by his wife Jean.  The pair pester their old factory foreman Gerald (Tom Wilkinson) - a dance instructor on the side - to help them put together choreography for their burlesque show, and while dismissive at first, Gerald finds solace and self-worth in their budding friendship.  Meanwhile they audition other fellas around town to join the act, becoming a sextet of misfits who generate a buzz by promising to do what the professional Chippendales dancers won't: take it ALL off.
This film is pretty lighthearted and a lot less raunchy than one might expect given the subject matter.  There's enough dramatic meat to more or less keep one invested in the story, though Robert Carlyle doesn't convey it all that smoothly from where I sit.  I found his performance honestly a bit amateurish - too big in the drama department and too broad when attempting comedy.  Mark Addy's performance as David is much more successful as he wrestles with his own shortcomings, seesawing back and forth on whether to participate in the show, and trying to understand why Jean is still attracted to him.  Tom Wilkinson is fine as always, getting the flashiest acting moments; I'm not sure he's capable of turning in anything less than a solidly professional performance.  

I guess my biggest gripe with this film is I just didn't find it all that funny.  I can respect that they kept the comedy light and understated but I felt like they erred too far in that direction, and as a result the movie just didn't make me laugh.  Like, at all.  I also question why The Full Monty earned a Best Pic nod that year and not a far superior film like Boogie Nights (which excels both as a dramatic piece AND contains some big laughs).  I think if The Full Monty had been an American production with late-90s American-style comedy the Academy wouldn't have given it a second look.  But because it was a slight, subtle English film it qualified as Oscar bait.  For me it wasn't heavy enough to be moving, nor ridiculous enough to be all that amusing; it just occupied a weird middle ground where I didn't have strong feelings about it at all.

It was just.....fine.  Not one of my favorite Best Picture nominees.

I give The Full Monty **1/2 out of ****.

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