The Full Monty Review

One of the more interesting titbits of information to be garnered from this two-disc set’s exhaustive collection of special features is the fact that producer Uberto Pasolini came extremely close to considering Ken Loach for the role of director. After all, he argues, The Full Monty is very much a film which encroaches on his territory, concentrating as it does on disenfranchised males, the working class and the North of England. Yet whilst we can detect some or all of these elements in the vast majority of Loach’s films – from Poor Cow right through to his contribution to the new anthology Tickets - not to mention the fact that many of actors here had worked or would go on to work with the director (Robert Carlyle, Steve Huison, Bruce Jones), The Full Monty lacks his often over political dimension. Rather in its place there’s a wide streak of sheer obviousness running through the film. Now you could argue that Loach hasn’t always been subtle – look at Bread and Roses, say, or The Navigators and you can immediately divide the characters into what are, essentially, good guys and bad guys – but then he also doesn’t repeatedly hammer the same points home. Time and again The Full Monty feels the urge to tell us one more that the men at its centre – unemployed, low of self-esteem – aren’t especially happy with their situation.

The other big difference between this film and Loach’s cinematic output is the fact that Loach never makes ‘high concept’ movies, yet this is exactly what The Full Monty is. The story of five men, all made redundant six months previous when their Sheffield steelworks closed down, who turn to stripping as a means of making money, it’s a film which is unashamedly populist in its approach. There’s no real grit, nor any real drama to the piece, yet at the same time it’s also not calculated. Essentially it’s just another low-budget British comedy of the kind that isn’t really seeking any genuine success (and certainly not international success), although it wouldn’t mind getting a decent sized audience when it crops up on television. Indeed, had it been driving towards the kind of box office figures it eventually achieved (in the manner of a US ‘high concept’ movie) then surely there would be no place for the gay subplot, no matter how coy and undeveloped it may actually be.

Importantly, it’s this unassuming nature which ultimately allows The Full Monty to work as well as it does. For all its blatancy and obvious knob gags, there’s a down to earth quality which makes these elements much less immediately disagreeable. Its pleasures are in the throwaway moments (such as when the gang settle down to Flashdance for tips, but can only comment on the quality of Jennifer Beal’s welding) and the lack of sentimentality. Even though Carlyle’s relationship with his son forms a large part of the film’s structure (Carlyle having been separated from wife Emily Woof and unable to keep up with the maintenance payments), it’s never exploited by the filmmakers but simply played straight. Conversely this also means that it avoids the issue of a young boy being placed in a situation whereby grown men are naked or near-naked around him, but then The Full Monty isn’t really concerned with this level of realism.

Indeed, even the characters are wafer thin, whilst the very few female parts are so underwritten that they barely even exist. Yet once again the unassuming nature overrides such concerns and makes them far less apparent. When you see what the likes of Carlyle and Huison can do with such moderate characterisations, and in such an unshowy fashion, you realise just how good they are as actors and why they’ve worked with the likes of Loach, though much the same goes for the rest of the cast as well. Even Mark Addy sufficiently explains why he was courted by Hollywood, despite the fact that his subsequent choices (Down to Earth, The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas) have effectively crippled his career. In fact, it would be fair to say that The Full Monty gets much better than it deserves. It is, essentially, a very simple film made ultimately highly agreeable thanks to some more than capable handling.

The Disc

Previously issued in vanilla form, The Full Monty now gets the DVD treatment it deserved courtesy of a handsome two-disc set replete with fine presentation, choice of commentaries, a host of deleted scenes and various featurettes.

Beginning with its presentation, the film comes in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and in generally fine condition. The level of detail is superb, the colours would appear to be correct and print damage is negligible (there’s a minor instance early on, but thereafter nothing to speak of). Indeed, the only complaint is the occasional appearance of edge enhancement during the brighter scenes, though to be honest this never proves to be a major distraction. As for the soundtrack here we find a choice of DD5.1 and DTS, both in equally fine condition. Admittedly, neither is used to the fullest this being very much a dialogue heavy movie, but then there are no technical problems to speak of and as such no complaints. Also present is a Dolby Surround offering the US version of the soundtrack, though isn’t quite the giant overhaul you may come to expect. Accents remain, as does the language, with the only real change being the alteration of more UK-centric terms such as “twat” and “DIY”.

The first disc holds the more interesting extras, perhaps because Fox have an eye on issuing the film as a single-disc edition somewhere down the line. Here we find two commentaries, one by director Peter Cattaneo and Mark Addy, the other by producer Uberto Pasolini, 28-minutes worth of deleted scenes with optional commentary (again by Cattaneo and Addy), plus the EPK material recorded in 1997. Of these various choices it is perhaps best to listen to the two commentaries simultaneously, flicking between the two. I say this as both contain their fair share of lengthy pause and because both offer their own angles. Addy says very little, but Cattaneo is especially good as explaining his choices and pointing out what he sees as defects. Pasolini on the other hand offers a more overall look at the film, touching on everything from Anne Dudley’s chirpy Oscar winning score to the influence of Ken Loach.

As for the deleted scenes, these amount to ten excised moments, but come in the form of rushes and therefore allow us to see various takes, reverse angles and the like. It’s an interesting way of going about things and also allows the optional commentary to be much more wide-ranging in its discussion. The EPK material on the other hand is mostly worthless, amounting to standard soundbites from the various cast members. That said, the addition does make sense as from the various performers it is only Tom Wilkinson who contributes to the various newly produced featurettes on the second disc.

Understandably, this leaves a huge gap, but then there is still much to enjoy and vast amount of territory being covered. Amongst the speakers we still get Cattaneo, Pasolini, Anne Dudley, various Fox executives, plus critics Ian Christie and Derek Malcolm, though no Simon Beaufoy who wrote the screenplay. Together this somewhat disparate group cover the film from its development right through to its eventual success, with stop offs given to the soundtrack, the US version and the state of the British film industry. This latter piece is especially interesting for its potted history of Film on Four and the BFI Production Board, but sadly includes very few clips. Indeed, for all the films mentioned only Carine Adler’s Under the Skin appears alongside The Full Monty itself. Nonetheless, everything on the second disc is worth a look, which makes the “play all” option (whereby it all blends into a seamless 100-minute documentary) especially welcome. Moreover, we also get the chance to see Cattaneo’s student short Sheffield Steel in its entirety, a kind of avant-garde precursor to the film’s opening minutes.

As with the main feature all extras, including the various commentaries, come with optional English subtitling.

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