Paddy Breathnach's comedy could be described as "Best in Show" restyled for the British national hairdressing championships. But the spoof falls flatter than a beehive hairdo caught in a downpour. Scripted by Simon Beaufoy ("The Full Monty"), the movie unsuccessfully tries to mix satire and sentiment. It's neither wacky nor touching enough to produce much of a reaction at all. The stellar ensemble cast proves that good acting alone can't turn a mediocre screenplay into a hit movie. To borrow an old adage: If it's not on the page, it's not on the stage. Natasha Richardson ("The Comfort of Strangers") plays the Yorkshire hair-salon owner who hopes to repair her family's split ends without cutting them off.
She hasn't spoken to her barber husband (Alan Rickman of "Sense and Sensibility") and son (Josh Hartnett of "The Virgin Suicides") in 10 years. That's when she ran off with her husband's hair model (Rachel Griffiths of "Hilary and Jackie") the night before his most important competition on the hairdressing circuit. The national championships offer them a second chance to color, snip and style their way into a better relationship.
Everything about this British import is either superficial or formulaic. Although the heterosexual-lesbian love triangle had interesting angles to plumb, the movie refused to touch them. The same goes for the family dynamics: Mom disappears from the house for a decade, and when she walks back into her husband and son's life, everyone acts as if the stray cat just wandered in. The corpses in the town's mortuary register more emotion.
In conventional fashion, the "Hair Olympics" proceed through four rounds--Lady's Timed Blow Dry, Men's Free-Style, Evening Wear/Evening Hair, and The Total Look--with no tension and few highlights. A cheating arch rival (British comic Ray Roberts) never seems particularly clever nor threatening. And so what if the home team doesn't win the coveted Silver Scissors? The movie doesn't set the bar too low: It's not set at all.
"Blow Dry" is a cut below the usual Miramax release.
Rated R for language and frontal nudity. 1 hour, 34 minutes.
- Susan Tavernetti