Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Movie Log: Blow Dry

Some of you may be stronger than I am, but when I heard that Blow Dry was a comedy set in a small British town featuring Alan Rickman as an ex-competitive hairdresser named Phil Allen who has to pick up his golden scissors again when the British Hairdressing Championships (and his nemesis, Bill Nighy, as the villainous Ray Robertson) comes to his small town....well, I just had to see that movie.

The cover plays up a subplot -- one which I suspect American money-makers insisted on -- in which Josh Hartnett (wielding a decent but inconsistent accent as Rickman's son Brian) and Rachael Leigh Cook (Nighy's daughter Christina, pegged in dialogue as "from Minneapolis") meet, dance around each other for a bit, and of course fall in love. She wants to be a colorist; he's a "cutter."

The big haircutting competition is the excuse for the movie, and the source of all of the best scenes -- particularly those with Warren Clarke as the local mayor Tony -- but it's not the core of the film. You see, Rickman was once a major player on the competitive circuit; he worked with his wife Shelly (Natasha Richardson), another cutter, and he had a great model, Sandra (Rachel Griffiths). But about ten years before this movie begins, Shelly and Sandra ran off together.

And now they have shops right next door to each other in this small Yorkshire town, but haven't spoken to each other since (Putting Blow Dry firmly in the great movie tradition of social setups that don't make much sense and that start to crumble as soon as the movie starts.)

Shelly has Movie Cancer -- the kind that allows her to wear a wig over her soft, damaged, short hair, and makes her sit down out of exhaustion and vomit once each, and will kill her sometime after the movie ends, but which otherwise doesn't affect her life in the slightest. She's been hiding this from everyone but Sandra, and she hides her latest, fatal, diagnosis from Sandra.

But she wants to get the family back together -- the fact that she's the one who broke it up is one that everyone is too tactfully British to mention -- and this competition is the way to do it.

Can Phil and Brian work with Sandra and Shelly? Will they enter the competition? Will that scoundrel Ray Robertson cheat to win a coveted third set of golden scissors? Will Christina at first seem bumbling, but come through in the end? Will there be lots of fabulousity? Will our heroes win in the end, with that pesky cancer pushed aside for a happy ending?

You bet your sweet bippy. Blow Dry is a movie that knows precisely what its audience wants, and gives them that in a pleasant, somewhat silly form. It's not utterly predictable, but any regular movie-goer will know where the story is going.

If you're looking for a comedy with some dramatic aspirations about a competition, Blow Dry will fit the bill nicely. And it's jam-packed with solid English acting talent, all of whom do much better Yorkshire accents than poor Hartnett.

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