The Full Monty (review)

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Accent-ental Tourists

I just know there’s gonna be an American version of The Full Monty (starring Robert Carlyle and Tom Wilkinson). It’s a perfectly wonderful little film about a group of out-of-work steel miners in Sheffield, England, who decide they can make a few bob with their own male strip show. They’re none of them the Chippendales ideal — all of them either overweight or skinny — but they’re all engaging in their own ways, and naturally their show is a success.

The bastardized Hollywood version of The Full Monty is sure to star such nontalents as Tom Arnold and Chris Farley and maybe even Charlie Sheen. It will be stripped (no pun intended) of all charm and the little bit of soul-searching the British characters faced. The action will be relocated to Pittsburgh or Detroit, yet all the characters will have flat California accents, because Hollywood producers seem to think that Americans have an aversion to accents not our own. (I’m awaiting with trepidation this week’s premiere of ABC’s Cracker, based on the fabulous British series. I’m willing to suspend judgment until I actually see it, but I have the word abomination standing by.)

Though I cringe to say this, I wonder if those Hollywood producers are right about the accents.

I live on a northern border of New York City, so when I decide to take in a flick, I can either head down to civilization Manhattan, or I can venture into the wilds of Westchester. I usually go south into Gotham, where the audiences tend to be slightly better behaved, but for The Full Monty I went to the ‘burbs. Now, I grew up on Doctor Who and Monty Python, and Mystery! and EastEnders are staples of my television diet, so I have no trouble with British accents — I barely even hear them anymore. I know I am in the minority here. But didn’t the packed audience in Westchester know they were buying tickets for a (gasp) foreign film? Perhaps all they knew was that, because the dialog was in English, there wouldn’t be any of those dreaded subtitles.

I knew I was in trouble from the opening credits, which run under a hilarious bit of 1970’s PR for the city of Sheffield, one of those puffed-up films that used words like thriving, energetic, and bustling. The credits end, the screen goes black, and the legend “Twenty-five years later” appears. If you know anything about the misery that is Sheffield today, the biting irony is obvious. I laughed out loud, as did my likewise Brit-hip movie-going companions, which prompted the woman behind me to say, in a normal speaking voice, “I don’t get it.” (Perhaps she got it when the images of present-day Sheffield slums appeared on the screen.)

I tried to ignore the whispered and not-whispered mutterings around me, the many “What did he say?”s and “I think she said”s, which was easier than it might have been with a less enjoyable movie. After a half an hour or so, the audience calmed down — I think they must have given up trying to understand.

I do find myself wondering if a Manhattan audience would have reacted any differently. Do more PBS and A&E viewers live in urban areas than in the ‘burbs? I may need to see The Full Monty again — purely for research purposes, you understand.

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