The Full Monty after 25 years is more relevant than ever

The Full Monty after 25 years is more relevant than ever

It is really difficult to find a more memorable British comedy from the 90s than The Full Monty by Peter Cattaneo, which was released on the sly exactly 25 years ago, and which in a matter of days became a global film phenomenon of enormous popularity.

But why this happened? Why after so long this film about a band of unemployed who improvise strippers, partly for fun and partly out of desperation, remains so iconic? Because for better or for worse, a quarter of a century later, the themes and problems proposed by The Full Monty remain incredibly current, and day after day, we all look more and more like the protagonists, as castaways of their own existence.

A Tale of the Times The Full Monty was set in Sheffield, and appeared as a sort of comic variation of that civilian cinematography which still today has an exceptional narrator in Ken Loach.

At the center of the process c 'was a group of unemployed, struggling with poverty, depression, marital crisis and uncertainty about their future. All elements that in fact still make it a work strongly connected to the terrible decade of the 1980s, when the policies adopted by the Iron Lady had brought the English working class to collapse, increased social inequalities and unemployment. It was a trauma that a considerable part of the British society has never forgotten or overcome, by virtue of poverty, degradation and the destruction of the concept of community, one of the reasons why many liked Brexit.

The 90s of Cool Britannia were those of Tony Blair's Third Way, with optimism around every corner, Europeanism, the certainty of having created a perfect balance between economic growth and the need to have a fairer and less classy society. But the reality was much less rosy, basically we were witnessing the birth of globalization, and the profound changes connected to the New Economy and the need to keep up with the times, led in the United Kingdom both to the failed liberalization of various economic sectors, and to a progressive loss of rights on the part of workers. Does all this remind you of anything?

Yes exactly, it seems to look in the mirror, to observe the situation in which we all find ourselves today, where being a worker basically means not being able to be masters of one's own life, not having certainties, stability, basically have a lower quality of life than in the past. All dramas that also due to the pandemic, have become a sort of sad and daily company with which we have almost gotten used to living together. Yet this film was also liked because it was about a small rebellion, about a group of men determined not to feel completely deprived of a choice.

The drama of unemployment The sanguine Gaz (Robert Carlyle) was the leader of that improvised group, as well as the most antisocial. The "System" has betrayed him, the steel factory where he and the others worked has been closed, and he doesn't mind even stealing if necessary together with his best friend Dave (Mark Addy), just to have money to avoid losing custody of son Nathan to ex-wife Mandy. Among those who follow Gaz and Dave in this little madness, there is also their former superior Cooper (Tom Wilkinson), a petty bourgeois who cannot understand that his life will never be the same again, and Lomper (Steve Huison), shy, depressed and insecure, which the two saved from a bizarre suicide attempt.

We laugh in The Full Monty, often and willingly, but always with a bittersweet, if not downright bitter aftertaste, which emerges overwhelmingly on more than one occasion, when six lives move in front of us absolutely devoid of a direction, of a dignity, the one that only work can give you in life. Very few films have been able to render the tragedy of unemployment in such an eloquent and realistic way, with the consequences it brings on a social and psychological level, destroying private life, the conception that one has of oneself. Someone among the Italian critics, at the time made a comparison with I Soliti Ignoti and with a whole full-bodied Italian cinematography on the art of getting by, on the concept of representative microcosm of the country or a slice of the country.

This it can only be true to a certain extent, because in reality in The Full Monty the political element, the condemnation of Thatcherism and the destruction of the social and economic fabric of the proletariat, certainly represent the heart of this irresistible comedy. Between skirmishes, unlikely ballets, absurd auditions, while all together struggle to carry on that show between defections, difficulties and even arrests, Gaz and the others are the protagonists, however, also in an analysis not for nothing on the English society of the time, on how and how much it was changing. Even more interesting, this is basically a film that also anticipates the crisis of the traditional family and the struggle of the rainbow community for their dignity.

The mirror of a society in profound change The Full Monty is a comedy to the masculine, but the "male", the typical English man, a creature who lives and grows in pubs, made up of class pride and belonging, is here in difficulty, forced to deal with a changing reality that deprives him of that power and authority that he took for granted.

Without a job, he is no longer the "head of the family" and as if that weren't enough, he discovers an ideal of male beauty that besieges and conditions him, of which they are bearers the real, authentic strippers their women run to see. The character of Dave is the one who takes the most responsibility of this problem, since he is overweight, is ashamed of his body and tries to lose weight in the most absurd and extreme ways. Also for this reason he tries to pull back until the end, so as not to get on that stage, not to feel uncomfortable, not to have to accept himself.

Finally, the film also introduces the topic of male impotence, to a long time a taboo in society. But in that decade there was also a progressive opening towards the LGBTQ community represented here by Loomer and the unsuspected and gifted Guy. In the 1980s, 75% of British people viewed homosexuality in a negative way, in 1997 "only" 40%. Today we all know how much more inclusiveness flutters under the Union Jack.

The Full Monty, however, is also interesting for the conflict towards women, which Peter Cattaneo does not describe in a particularly positive way. In fact, the women here appear selfish, not very emancipated, interested only in materiality and safety, unable or almost unable to stand by their men in times of difficulty.

This is another element of great interest because it reflects a criticality in the relationship between the sexes that in recent years has ended up at the center of complex discussions and analyzes, either because of the greater female emancipation, or also because of the crisis of the male, which began precisely in those 90s. The solution? Listening, comparison, empathy. The Full Monty, after 25 years, is not just a beautiful comedy, it does not simply represent a particular historical or social moment. This film anticipated today's world, our present without rights, isolation, the death of class consciousness, the incommunicability to be defeated by questioning and admitting one's vulnerabilities.

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