review by Paula Nechak, 9 March 2001
deliberate, triumph-of-the-little-guy-over-bleak-odds earnestness
and unlikeliness of The Full Monty or Billy Elliot
might have been an omen of inevitable formulaic disaster for Irish
director Paddy Breathnach's Blow Dry. After all, the film has
been in the can at least a year, it's written by Simon Beaufoy, who
also scripted The Full Monty, and its American distributor --
Miramax -- has released it with nary a whimper. And it follows on
the very heightened heels of a film with similar -- if campier --
sensibilities, The Big Tease.
all enough to lead a viewer to believe no one had faith in the
project. But I'd rather watch Blow Dry -- which was
originally titled Never Better - any day than the
over-zealous message of Billy Elliot if only because its cast
is so damned fine and so capable of taking the predictable pap that
defines this new wave of English working class comedy/dramas, and
performing some revisionist miracles through sheer force and the
charisma of talent and personality.
another predictable storyline, Brits Alan Rickman, Bill Nighy and
Natasha Richardson, Australia's Rachel Griffiths and up-and-comer
Yanks Josh Hartnett and Rachael Leigh Cook simmer surprisingly in
this crockpot unspooling in the small town of Keighley, where the
British National Hair Championships are about to take place.
championships are a prickly thorn for its residents. Town barber
Phil Allen (Rickman) has resigned himself to a third-class career
after his wife, Shelley (Richardson) left him high and dry at a
competition ten years earlier. Shelley ran off with Phil's hair
model, Sandra (Griffiths), forsaking their son, Brian (Hartnett),
marriage and a promising professional profile on the salon circuit.
Phil's old nemesis, Ray Roberts (Nighy), has re-emerged in order to
claim the title and seal his name as champ of champs. Unaware of her
dad's propensity for cheating and tilting the odds, Ray's daughter
Christine (Cook) accompanies him on his grand prix appearance. In a
Romeo-and-Juliet scenario, former childhood pals Brian and Christine
reunite, replaying not a balcony scene, but a hair-coloring
flirtation in the town's morgue and upon the recently deceased,
whose hair "continues to grow" after they've expelled
their last breath.
this kind of oddball precociousness that relegates the film to the
grit-your-teeth pile of precious, tired scenes and yet Blow Dry
plays better than it is because of its cast. Rickman allows us a
real insight into Phil's shift in thinking and of heart and
Richardson emits warmth and concern for the distaff family she would
like to see reunited -- especially in light of a secret she harbors.
as in almost every film she makes, it's Rachel Griffiths -- so
libidinously good in Muriel's Wedding and Jude, and
heartbreaking in Hilary and Jackie and My Son, the Fanatic
-- who grabs every scene she's in and wrings the essence out of it.
a slow build to her emotional graft in this film, and while she
appears frivolous and flighty in its initial moments, Sandra's
chrysallis from flake to formidability feels real and grounded in
her genuine love and affection for Shelley as well as a generosity
of spirit that has overcome her relegation to the shadows due to the
nature of her relationship. It could have been just another plot
machination that grinds the film to a dead halt. And just when the
temperature floats at a tepid degree, the heat turns up once again.
In its climactic finale Griffiths ascends, raising the pulse with a
show stopping turn that is pure theatrical dazzle. Had this cast not
signed on to Blow Dry it would certainly deserve the
less-than-stellar push it's been given. But this is an anomoly, the
rare script that is actually made better because of its actors. The
theory that even a bad actor can survive a good script works in
reverse here; a mediocre script shines due to the sheer deftness of
acting prowess and the outrageous fortune of its design team. Never
mind that the writer and director are probably the least useful of
presences on this set.
Rachael Leigh Cook
R - Restricted
Under 17 requires
parent or adult