For younger film fans — people who weren’t watching adult dramas about economic downturns and the emotional struggles of working-class men way back in the 1990s — it’s a little hard to explain the impact of 1997’s The Full Monty. The British film, starring Trainspotting’s Robert Carlyle and longtime character actor Tom Wilkinson as unemployed steel-mill workers who set out to wow their community with a strip show, was a huge worldwide hit. It was part of a wave of British import comedies that helped kickstart the market for international cinema in the days before streaming services casually imported movies from around the world. Now, The Full Monty is getting a legacy TV-series spinoff, reuniting the original cast and following up on the characters’ lives. Here’s why that matters.
The Full Monty was the feel-good hit of 1997. The Oscar-winning dramedy turned a $3.5 million budget into a $250 million payday, and became Britain’s top-earning box-office hit of all time. (Titanic later supplanted it.) People who still remember the movie probably mostly recall the self-effacing blue-collar humor, built around DIY determination and the image of a group of down-on-their-luck workers trying to reclaim their self-esteem by doing something a little daring and playful. Or maybe they just remember the sweet but understated moment where those men, standing in line at the unemployment office, spontaneously break out into a little dance when Donna Summers’ “Hot Stuff” plays on the radio.
But while The Full Monty is a crowd-pleaser with a rousing ending (at that promised burlesque show, where the six main conspirators have promised to “go the full monty” by stripping completely), the film is also surprisingly dark and frank about the effects of economic downturns and unemployment. The men in the cast are all struggling financially. One attempts suicide. Another is fighting to support his son and keep his access rights after a divorce. A third is kicked out of his home. It’s a wry movie, filled with banter and grim humor. But it’s also pretty frank about the gutting, desperate feeling of being unemployed and uncertain about the future in a changing economy. That doesn’t sound particularly comedic — but The Full Monty’s particular blend of realism, sympathetic yet frustrating characters, and an unlikely form of uplift was part of the appeal.
The Full Monty was ahead of its time in a lot of ways: It’s a sex-positive film that considered women’s pleasure and perspectives and explored toxic masculinity before there was a term for it. It portrays a gay relationship with approval and respect — minimally, but without mockery or gay-panic gags, which was practically unheard of for a mainstream comedy in 1997. It also finds its light in human connection, without turning into an unrealistic fantasy. Its final moment — a freeze-frame on a high note — seems designed to acknowledge that a night of joyous self-reclamation is a wonderful thing, but that it won’t actually solve most of the characters’ long-term problems.
So going back to that story for a 25-years-later reunion could be a daring way to pick up the threads a movie couldn’t explore. It might seem like a cynical cash grab, or a wearying necessity in a world where every story ever told now counts as legacy IP and possible nostalgia-bait. (It also might be a huge long shot: The Full Monty was a hit, but even the people who do remember it probably couldn’t name more than a couple of the characters, or the actors who played them.)
But FX’s description of the show actually sounds like the people behind it — including the original screenwriter, Simon Beaufoy — want to use the movie as a launching point for an original and relevant story, something more invested in current events than in copycatting a past hit. Here’s FX’s summary:
Taking place 25 years after the original British smash hit, the eight-episode series will follow the same band of brothers as they navigate the post-industrial city of Sheffield and society’s crumbling healthcare, education, and employment sectors. The comedy-drama will uncover what happened to the gang after they put their kit back on, exploring their brighter, sillier and more desperate moments. It will also highlight how the fiercely funny world of these working-class heroes — still residing in Sheffield — has changed in the intervening decades.
Writer, Creator and Executive Producer Simon Beaufoy said, “It has been one of the great joys of my writing career to reunite this eccentric, irrepressible family of Sheffield men and women and see how 25 years, 7 Prime Ministers, and 100 broken political promises have affected their lives.”
Returning from the original cast are Robert Carlyle, Mark Addy (who went on to play King Robert Baratheon in Game of Thrones), Lesley Sharp, Hugo Speer, Paul Barber, Steve Huison, Wim Snape, and Tom Wilkinson. The TV series The Full Monty will premiere in June, premiere date TBD. The 1997 movie The Full Monty is streaming on HBO Max and is available for digital rental or purchase at Amazon, Vudu, and other digital platforms.