by Greg Muskewitz
On the lighter and breezier side, we have “Blow Dry,” a semi-innocuous small-time movie with small-time results. While the silliness does nothing to extend or contract its scope or type of humor, there is a faint sense of jolly here, and the goofy, ridiculous antics that the actors submit themselves to here, tend to extend the movie slightly beyond its absurdity.Welcome to the small town of Keighley, England, where the National Hairdressing Championship is being held, for the coveted prize of “Silver Scissors.” While the mayor of the town happens to think this is all well and exciting, few others share his enthusiasm. Keighley’s own former coiffeur (Alan Rickman) seems completely non-interested in competing, but he is mostly rancorous towards his ex-wife Shelly (Natasha Richardson), who ran off with his model, Sandra (Rachel Griffiths) the night before the same championship years ago. But now Shelly is dying of cancer, and their overall alienated son Brian (Josh Hartnett) is following in the hair-cutting family tradition, they dyfunctionally attempt to conglomerate to enter the contest for their own reasons and vindications.
"...an amiable little event..."
The main rivalry is with Ray (Bill Nighy), and his Robertson Hair Salon, as he treacherously intends to rig the contest and employ his daughter Christina (Rachel Leigh Cook) for help. But she avoids his devious ulterior motives when she falls for Brian, and vice versa. As the competition stiffens, like the hairspray on their hair, outrageous is certainly an acceptable term to describe the results, as the events go from Lady’s Timed Blow Dry (with comb dilemmas), to Men’s Free-style (more pompadours in one establishment next to an Elvis convention), then to Evening Wear/Evening Hair, and lastly, The Total Look.
What more can be said about that goofy atmosphere other than that it plays the absurd card? It’s light entertainment fare, and although it does not cinematically achieve anything, “Blow Dry” emits some easy chuckles without much effort on the viewers part. It’s cheeky tone of wild, harebrained (hairbrained?) people work as an indifferent front. There is some fun humor residing in the script (based off of Simon Beaufoy’s screenplay “Never Better”) and it takes little on the audience’s part to get there. (Newspaper headline reads: “Few Highlights at Hair Convention.”) “Blow Dry” is recommendable only on the promise that it’s a slapstick-y hair comedy. Otherwise, the laughs on a flow basis are far and few between, because after all, as a comedy, it’s one of those! The humor is not as broad, nor raunchy, as something like “There’s Something About Mary” (seemingly the standard of this kind to base such things on), or as well crafted as “Company Man.” A lot of what propels “Blow Dry” to an amiable little event is the range and caricatures of the characters.
The characters are quickly forced on us, but are for the most part easy enough to get along with, at least to desire to be around them for the movie’s ongoing events. It takes some warming up to, and even though I wouldn’t say that the characters are likable in a comfortable way, they attain a certain stature of audience-friendly. They are drawn in such sketched, mannered standards that their eccentricities are the norm (or at least we come to expect it of them), and the norm itself is pleasant in a minor way.
However, the interaction of the characters in a verbal presentation isn’t as conducive. Many of the actors (Hartnett being the main perpetrator) horribly garble and slur their speech, and it does not carry well as it becomes muddled in the drowning qualities of the keyboard score and obumbrating loud rock. In that sense, “Blow Dry” is constantly giving itself split ends!
For a movie about hair, and maybe this is supposed to be the joke, none of the characters during their regular appearances have good hairstyles. Nothing extreme or outlandish is expected, but the styles are all so plain and dull. Naturally they would want to save the best or most peculiar dos for the end, but at least show off to us that these hairstylists are worthy of their profession. There are the obligatory homosexual references as would most movies about hair (save for John Waters’ classic “Hairspray”), but in a pleasant surprise, they don’t stereotype it very hard at all.
But what gets me, is after all the building to and anticipation of the end, or at least the end of the competition, why so little time was actually spent on it. Director Paddy Breathnach spoils some of the fun by rushing it. Instead of taking the time to savor and examine the unconventionality of The Total Look, where all the models are made-out in some extreme, it’s shoved in our faces and taken away in a matter of minutes. This is intended to be the climax, the high point, the highlight mind you (with the exception of the family reunion, which I will address next), but it is rushed and we don’t get to admire it. What little bit of Robertson Hair Salon’s Nefertiti that we see, is stunning, and surely A Cut Above’s (the hometown’s team) transmutation of Sandra into this indescribable creature is amazing. Yet we hardly have time to get a grasp on it through the swirling of the camera, the rapidity of cuts, and the impatience of Breathnach. The alternative climax, is the reunion of the family, where Rickman’s character forgives Shelly and Sandra, and they love each other, but also him, and Brian is happy and in love with Christina. This is all pooey! Now, the eccentric nature of the movie has been turned into a schmaltzy, maudlin pot of goo. If this is the purpose we were taken along the ride for, it is not worth it, and leaves a somewhat sour residuum in the mouth. The cancer card is already being played for unfair and contrived effect, but then to turn into one big happy family, a menage-a-cinq, is ridiculous.
The actors all turn in genial performances, but most don’t break any new ground. Despite her affected-manner, Richardson has a nice presence, as does Griffiths (who is somewhat reminiscent of Juliette Lewis), and a more back-on-track Cook. The familiar bed-headed Hartnett, although grasping for it, does not pull off what he was intended for (especially the faulty dialect, which often boarders on a cheap Sean Connery imitation), but he doesn’t suffer much for it. Where his mop-top would qualify as probably the worst hair-do in “Blow Dry,” the best, or at least most unique (outside of Nefertiti and Griffiths’ Total Look dos) is Heidi Klum’s amusingly altered pubic thatch, shaped and dyed to resemble a heart. How sweet.Final Verdict: B-.
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originally posted: 03/10/01 07:34:16