Blow Dry

Movie Review by Susannah Macklin

Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Alan Rickman, Rachael Leigh Cook, Josh Hartnett
Director: Paddy Breathnach

It was never going to be easy for screenwriter Simon Beaufoy to match the success of his first feature film, THE FULL MONTY, but he may have contributed towards making a difficult task an impossible one with BLOW DRY.

Set against the backdrop of a small Yorkshire town where prospects are virtually non-existent and the locals have to battle with the working man’s feeling of what is right and the seed that has been planted of possibly bettering themselves, BLOW DRY works the basic Beaufoy formula to the maximum. But here comes the audience repelling crunch, Beaufoy decided to diversify in the theme and this time it’s not miners and strippers, but hairdressers and scissors that come under the spotlight.

The story centres around the National British Hairdressing Championships which rather than choose the glitz and glamour of London for such a high gloss affair, decides to locate itself in the town of Keighley, England. The locals don’t quite know what to make of it, especially those that thought they would never be within spraying distance of a can of Harmony ever again. Enter ex-competition king turned local barber Phil (Alan Rickman) who, since his wife and hairdressing partner left him and son Brian (played by a seriously miscast Josh Hartnett), vowed never again to go beyond the boundary of a short back and sides. But in the way that circumstances seem to have a habit of enforcing life changing turns in small northern towns, Phil’s old hairdressing rival Ray sweeps in with the circus and Phil is forced to decide between teaming up with the town’s other hairdressers (his ex wife and the lover she ran off with) or keeping his pride and losing his last shot at the prestigious Silver Scissors forever.

The shame about BLOW DRY is that Beaufoy clearly wanted it to be so much more than just a film about hairdressing. Although echoing the allegory of THE FULL MONTY which gives BLOW DRY the Beaufoy signature style, it hardly achieves the same unique balance of wretched emotion and comedy.The mending of the ultimate dysfunctional family headed by Natasha Richardson, as Phil’s ex wife with a bleak future, should have provided the right amount of gel for the story to stick, but as every good stylist knows – any more than a pea sized amount is too much! Director Paddy Breathnach tries to go for the highly stylised, high camp that often works so well in specialist films, but rather than the Baz Luhrmann (Strictly Ballroom) in the salon look he seems to be trying to create, he has ended up with a slightly embarrassing mess, with snips and cuts in all the wrong places.

BLOW DRY’s casting of two of Hollywood’s hottest young things, really doesn’t help the film much either. Rather than give it some much needed credibility and characterisation, it will just leave younger cinemagoers wondering what the hell are the impossibly American, Josh Hartnett and Rachael Leigh Cook, doing in the middle of Yorkshire (and the former with a Northern accent so laughable, that he must be the most serious contender for the Golden Raspberry for bad accents since Dick Van Dyke misrepresented a million cock-e-knees in Mary Poppins).

BLOW DRY isn’t a terrible film by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s not a particularly good film either, so avoid until in need of a video rental, because just like a bad hair gel lends itself to a bad film/hairdressing analogy – it goes on easily – but ends up wet, dull and lifeless.

2 out of 6 stars

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