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The Full Monty

On the surface, the 1997 film “The Full Monty” is a comedy about a group of unemployed steelworkers who hit upon the idea of making some quick money by stripping.  Underneath the comic surface of the film lies an all-too-human web of relationships, self-esteem struggles, and optimism in the face of dying dreams.

The Full Monty

On the surface, the 1997 film “The Full Monty” is a comedy about a group of unemployed steelworkers who hit upon the idea of making some quick money by stripping.  Underneath the comic surface of the film lies an all-too-human web of relationships, self-esteem struggles, and optimism in the face of dying dreams.

During the first twenty minutes of the film, two of the most crucial relationships in the film are already set: Gaz and Dave and Gaz and his son, Nathan.  However, the introduction of Lomper into the group identifiably goes through four of the five stages in Knapp’s Relationship Escalation Model.  As Dave and Gaz are out jogging one day, they pass a young man trying to start his car.  Dave, who stops to fix the problem, begins the Initiation stage, but cuts off the contact after getting no response from Lomper, and thus it would seem that there is no Experimenting stage.  As the film cuts to a long shot, we realize that Lomper is trying to asphyxiate himself by attaching a hose to the car’s exhaust.  Dave realizes this a few seconds after walking away, and runs back to save Lomper’s life.

The next scene shows Dave, Gaz and Lomper sitting on a hill, discussing ways of committing suicide and moving into the Intensifying stage.  Lomper reveals personal details (volunteering self-disclosure) and it is quite interesting to note the characters’ meta-communication: all three are facing the same direction, pointedly not looking at each other as they discuss various types of suicide, all the while not mentioning Lomper’s recent actions.  Most men in personal conversation tend to specifically not look at each other, as opposed to women, who prefer face-to-face contact.

The relationship jumps to the Bonding stage: Lomper announces “I haven’t got any mates,” to which Gaz tells him that they have just saved his life, “so don’t tell us we’re not your mates.”  The duo of Dave and Gaz has become a triumvirate, and the next scene shows Lomper being integrated into the group.  Lomper is able to assert himself within the “machismo” façade that characterizes the male relationships in the film: no one is ever truly able to express his feelings to the other men, and so they resort to insults: calling each other “fat bastard” or “tosser.”  Lomper is able to successfully integrate by calling Dave “tubby.”

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