The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 36.0°F | Mostly Cloudy


Blow Dry

This Film Blows, to Put It Eloquently

By Jed Horne

staff writer

Directed by Paddy Breathnach

Written by Simon Beaufoy

Starring Alan Rickman, Natasha Richardson, Josh Hartnett, Rachel Griffiths, Bill Nighy, and Rachel Lee Cook

Rated R

You would think that after the sleeper success of The Full Monty, screenwriter Simon Beaufoy would use a little bit of his credibility to continue making credible movies. Instead, his latest farce, Blow Dry, is a feckless mish-mash of oddly restrained campiness, sappy sentimentality, and ’80s-teen-movie rivalry.

Ostensibly, Blow Dry is the story of Britain’s national hair-dressing competition and its invasion of a small town. The contest brings all the weirdos out of the woodwork, with a nod (perhaps unintentional) to David Mamet’s State and Main. Enter Louis (Bill Nighy) and his entourage of hair-stylists of ill repute. This is where Blow Dry is at its best. Particularly entertaining is the transformation of the town mayor and competition emcee from a medallion-wearing, humorless relic to a Las Vegas-style Elvis Impersonator, complete with a leather jacket and a sneer exposing a little more of his gnarled teeth than I’d like to have seen.

Too bad Blow Dry tries to have a plot, too.

The story is held together loosely by salon-owner and former champion hair-dresser Phil (played by probably the only talented actor in the movie, Alan Rickman). Sworn off contests since his wife Shelley (Natasha Richardson) ran off with model Sandra (Rachel Griffiths), Phil is unwilling to enter the competition despite the wistful glances his son Brian (Josh Hartnett of The Virgin Suicides) casts towards a photo of former crush Christina (Rache Lee Cook) who just so happens to be the son of his arch-rival, Louis.

As if the setup weren’t bad enough, Shelley, in a gush of It Takes a Village-style family values, decides that, because she is dying of cancer, she wants to reunite her former family, lesbian girlfriend and all, by entering them as a team in the contest.

Assuming, I guess, that no movie is complete without a rivalry straight out of Rocky, except with ambiguously gay contestants. Blow Dry trudges along to its inevitable conclusion (which I would be insulting your intelligence if I gave away to you) complete with music that could have come straight from a movie like Teen Wolf or Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

The thing is that campiness is a formula that directors have used in the past to full effect and successfully. It is particularly disappointing that this movie doesn’t have the balls to go over the top where it should, or to restrain itself where it just plain isn’t funny. Maybe I’m being bigoted, but I think the British should stick to wry humor and leave trashiness to John Waters.

Okay, fine, so the British can’t do camp. But, if Blow Dry is any indication, they can’t do sentimentality either. Shelley’s battle with cancer is simply done badly, as is Brian’s romance with the too-perfect-looking Christina. So badly, in fact, that describing it would take another whole column. Unless you liked the equally un-watchable Chocolat, I wouldn’t recommend it as a tear-jerker, either.

Who’s the blame? The cast and crew are not without talent. The movie’s formula has worked before. Blame the British for overstepping the limits of their country’s cinema? Possibly. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter. No matter how thin you slice it, it’s still baloney.