Unemployed steel mill worker Gaz gets the brilliant idea to make some money by doing a Chippendale’s style strip show after seeing all the women in the neighborhood lined up to see such a show done by professionals. After receiving a letter that his ex is suing for sole custody of their son Nathan, and behind on his child support, Gaz is desperate for funds, but this story is really more about gaining self-confidence after being out of work for six months. This is especially true for Gaz’s best friend Dave, who is a few pounds overweight. They blackmail their former boss Gerald, a ballroom dance enthusiast, into teaching them some dance moves and joining the troupe. Along the way the guys pick up Lomper, who is still employed as security for the mill, but who really needs friends. The group is rounded out by Horse and Guy after some hilarious auditions.
I can’t watch The Full Monty without grinning most of the way through, and it is comforting, but it’s also a very serious film. There have been lots of movies about a group of underdogs who got together to do a seemingly impossible task, but most of them are absurd, such as Dodgeball. The Full Monty is a straight ahead movie about people doing something ridiculous, but it’s also about class struggles, unemployment, parenting, relationships, and especially body image. Dave would hardly even be considered fat today, but in 1997 he stuck out. One of the best scenes in the movie is when he is reading Cosmo while Guy tans and Dave has an epiphany about how the way that men judge women’s bodies is now the way he believes this group of amateur strippers are going to be judged. Wrinkle cream exists, he says, “but anti-fat bastard cream there ain’t!” And I certainly can relate to him later sitting alone in his shed eating candy and wrapping himself in plastic wrap in hopes of looking thinner.
Of course, as Gerald says early on in the film, “Fat, David, is a feminist issue.” This line is not explained, but it’s pretty well accepted opinion in society that women are less concerned with what men look like than vice versa. Gerald and Guy are the most conventionally attractive in this film, but I’ve heard more women talk about having a crush on Robert Carlyle who plays Gaz than anyone else. For Christ’s sake, most of us who sat through all three seasons of that not-great Hamish Macbeth series did it to gaze at him, although the show did get better as it went on, and then worse again. And many women don’t mind a little dad bod, as with Dave. And then there’s a little surprising gay subplot here, and the fact that one of those two guys isn’t the best looking didn’t keep him from finding love or something like it.
It’s not about your looks, it’s about your personality, charisma, chutzpah, whatever. And that might be the whole point of this film. Besides the reminder of, “hey why don’t you be nicer,” “have more self-confidence” is the thing we most often beg ourselves and others to do, and yet it’s the hardest lesson to learn. If you need to hear it today, I’m telling YOU! You are enough, and you are doing your best, and you are making someone’s life worth living. So do your thing!
While we were all excited watching the film to see the dance at the end, I think one scene that sticks in my mind more, and I don’t think I’m alone here, is the part where the guys have seemingly abandoned their stripping ambitions and are standing in line at the employment office, when what should come on the radio but Hot Stuff! And even though they aren’t interacting with each other, they all are compelled to start doing the steps they’ve practiced. That’s why I chose Hot Stuff as my karaoke song today, even though it’s an understatement to say that it’s not at all right for my voice. I did it for Dave and Gaz. If they could get their “kit off” at the end of the film, for all the wonderful feelings The Full Monty inspires in me, the very least I could do in gratitude was to murder a disco song.
Did you know that Harold Faltermeyer of Axel F fame is one of the three writers of Hot Stuff? I just found that out when I watched the credits of the karaoke track.