Director : Mark Herman
With : Pete Postlethwaite, Ewan McGregor, Tara Fitzgerald
Why some films can make it big while others disappear anonymously I cannot fully understand. Let’s look at “Brassed Off” and “The Full Monty” as examples. Both films are set in blue collar English towns where unemployment, and its prospect, create all sorts of emotional conflicts and dysfunctional family situations. In “Brassed Off” the plot focuses on coal miners who play in a brass band, while in “The Full Monty” the cast are steel workers who attempt to become strippers. Both films are somewhat heartwarming and inspire the audience to really feel for the underdog protagonists. Both films star popular British film actors (Robert Carlyle and Ewan McGregor) but “The Full Monty” has grossed well over $100 million, while “Brassed Off” probably didn’t break $20 million.
“Brassed Off” seemed to me to be the better film, tackling more serious issues with the same casual and often comedic flare as “The Full Monty.” Both films depict a working class population that seems more at peace and more sophisticated than their counterparts in the states. And although I have even lived in Britain, it is hard to tell whether or not this portrayal is genuine or merely a cinematic creation.
In “Brassed Off” superb performances by Pete Postlethwaite, Ewan McGregor and Tara Fitzgerald allow this movie to transcend it’s “dramedic” intentions. The film revolves around the closing of a 100 year-old coal mine and the inevitable dismantling of the mine’s equally historic brass band. As the modern age transforms the laboring classes, it also manages to bulldoze the traditions that stand in its way. “Brassed Off” is powerful film, and one that seems no less accessible than “The Full Monty.”
I enjoyed both of these films considerably, but when evaluated together it really makes you think about why one worked and the other didn’t. Dumb luck, marketing, timing – probably all of these things, but keep in mind when you get around to seeing both, which one you think is actually the better film.