Blow Dry [retro review]

“Just because something’s fixed, doesn’t mean it can’t be broken.”

The Scoop: 2001 R, directed by Paddy Breathnach and starring Alan Rickman, Rachael Leigh Cook, Josh Hartnett

Tagline: An outrageous new comedy for anyone who’s ever had hair.

Summary Capsule: Hair today, gone tomorrow. That was really dreadful of me, wasn’t it?

Sue’s Rating: There is a reason I have short hair.

Sue’s Review: Fact: Every once in a while, I’ll choose to watch a movie for no better reason than a shallow hormonal-based interest in a certain, as they say in the modern parlance, “hottie”. Hey, I’m human, and there are worse reasons in the world for renting a flick. Like… like… well, never mind about that. There’s LOTS of worse reasons, I’m sure.

More often than not those movies are dreadful – possibly because they do contain a certain hottie and who needs plot, pacing or dialogue when you have [insert poster boy/girl name here]’s sexy sneer to bring in the bucks? Still, I soldier on, hoping for that magical movie that contains both a plentitude of eye candy (mmmm…can-dy) and an actual story.

Fact: British movies tend to interest me because their makers don’t often suffer the same crashing need to stick to endlessly rehashed – yet fiscally proven – plot lines that so often come out of the major American studios. For originality, go foreign. (Not that I consider our tea drinking brethren foreign. Not really. No offense. I love you guys! Give me a call. We’ll do polo!) On the other hand, British movies often confuse the daylights out of me because they weave subplots together in such a way that sometimes instead of finishing with… oh, say a nice cinematic cardigan, the end result is more reminiscent of the dust bunnies under my sofa. But I like to watch ’em anyway. British movies, that is. When they’re entertaining, I’m happy. When I don’t understand them, I pretend I do and expound smugly and at length to my friends over the inherent beauty of obscure metaphors revealing broad existential truths. Come to think of it, I have few friends.

Fact: Blow Dry is a British movie containing (of all people) Josh Hartnett. And while I’m fairly certain the story is simple enough for my wee brain to comprehend, for all I know it still might contain inherently beautiful metaphors revealing broad existential truths.

The surface story is pretty straightforward in a Best In Show or Strictly Ballroom kind of way. It’s time for the annual hair stylist championships and the competitors are a driven and diverse group of barbershop mavens – the veritable pros from Dover, only armed with mousse and glitter.

Shelley, the hometown hairstylist of Keithley – that year’s contest venue – is hot to enter and begins a quest to assemble the ultimate butt-kicking, tress clipping, varsity team. Problem. That team includes her estranged son Brian (Hartnett), her bitter ex-husband Phil (Alan Rickman) and the flighty but fierce Sandra who just happens to be her current female domestic partner for whom she left her ex-husband smack dab in the middle of their last competition over ten years ago. For some strange reason, Phil hasn’t spoken to her since. Go figure.

Yeah, some situations go just a little beyond awkward, don’t they? It ought to be a non-starter, but if it was, there wouldn’t be a movie would there? Besides, Shelley has an exceptionally good reason to want to not only compete but to reassemble her fractured family. No I am not going to elaborate. Unless you e-mail me and offer me cash and prizes, that is. Besides, if you were paying attention, I already told you.

While all this seems ridiculous on the surface, it is an irrefutable fact that truth is often stranger than fiction. Being something of an afficionado in the dysfunctional family realm, I readily bought into both the back story and plot development throughout. Except for the sheep. And the corpses. But I digress. For any number of reasons, broken families are still families, especially when there are kids involved. And don’t fool yourself, your kids are still kids even when they’re shaving, legal or shopping for condos in Boca. I’m not saying that a broken family can ever be mended, or even that it should be, but sometimes you have to slap the duct-tape of maturity over the chasm of acrimony and create a bridge of pragmatism for the universal better good. Did I just type that? No more Hawaiian Punch for me!

ANYWAY.

I’m not going to cut on this movie at all, even though I could. I’m more interested in the highlights. *Pause for universal groan.*

Blow Dry has three things going for it that I really like. The first is superb acting on the parts of Rickman, Bill Nighy (the inevitable arch-nemesis), Rachel Griffiths and especially Natasha Richardson.

The second is getting a down and dirty glance into a competitive world that I’ve never even thought about before. It’s amazing how many different specialties there are out there and just how passionate people are with their interests and avocations. For instance, I can walk the walk (trot the trot?) with the equestrian set, discourse intelligently and enthusiastically about greyhounds, and once upon a time I was a pretty nifty contributor to a specific fanfiction community. (If I do say so myself.) Hair styling isn’t necessarily my bag, but it’s cool and interesting to watch the lengths the competitors go through in pursuit of the national championship and to see just how much it means to them. And yes, cheating happens. Who’d a thunk it?

Third is just how funny it was to listen to Josh Hartnett’s interpretation of a broad Yorkshire accent. To be honest, he did fine most of the time, but occasionally he’d start to slur and stumble and I’d suffer a fit of the giggles. I like that there’s a certain equality to the fact that if Ewan McGregor can butcher an American accent in Black Hawk Down, Josh can mangle the British vernacular in Blow Dry.

Good fun all around!

This one’s done. Really done. NEXT!

Intermission!

  • Everybody refers to everybody else as “Luv”. Is that the Yorkshire version of “Dude!” or what?
  • How many movies begin with a guy clipping out his nose hair? Now that’s quality entertainment!
  • The sword-like swishing noise the scissors make when Phil spins ‘em. Highlander flashback!
  • Store Sign: “Pete’s Pavilion – Pets, Plumbing and Hardware” Just what kind of town is this anyway???
  • Uncle Barton was stylin’!
  • Hair Styling Sabotage 101 – the incredible melting combs!
  • Everybody vogue!
  • Not everyone can go Baroque and make it work. Especially in a bathrobe.
  • Newspaper Headline: “Few Highlights At Hair 2000.”
  • The Mayor’s metamorphosis between each event.
  • Facts about dead people that we really didn’t need to know.
  • Josh Hartnett who plays a Brit, and Rachael Leigh Cook, who plays an American, are both natives of Minnesota. Bill Nighy refers to Cook’s real hometown when his character tells hers that she isn’t “in Minneapolis anymore”.

Groovy Quotes

Phil: Just because something’s fixed, doesn’t mean it can’t be broken.

Brian: Mum! Dad’s cutting!

Phil: I’m a barber. He’s a barber. End of story. Short back and sides and you’re out on your ass.

Phil: Your highlights go green if you leave them in too long, luv.
Sharon: How long’s too long?
Phil: About now.

Phil: One of the nastiest double crowns I’ve ever had the misfortune to tackle.

Phil: Detroit, 1982. World Styling Finals. We’re running around shouting, “Foul,” while the Yanks, whose combs mysteriously do not wilt, do not melt, just carry on styling. No prizes for guessing who took the medals that year.

Lord Mayor: [to local reporters] …something of a coup. That’s with a ‘p’, Stanley…

Lord Mayor: You’re not going to enter? King of the bloody scissors! Mr. Numero Uno!
Phil: Keep still or I’ll ‘ave your ear off.

Daisy: So my dear, you’ve tied up all your ends have you?
Shelly: Absolutely Daisy. I’ve got an ex-husband who hasn’t talked to me in ten years, a son who’s embarrassed to be in same town as me, let alone the same room, and a girlfriend who thinks the only problem we have this year is what color to paint the salon. Yeah, it’s pretty much tied the ends up there.
Daisy: Well then, you’d better get a bloody move on.

Louis [about Kristina’s hair coloring attempts]: Biological warfare unit for you.

Brian: [standing over casket] This is Uncle Barton. I think you’re sleeping in his bed.

Kristina [about styling a dead man’s hair in a funeral home]: Does it bother you?
Brian: A bit. No volume, no real hold, that’s the problem. I use volumizing conditioner. That gives it a bit of body, I find.

Kristina: You were always a weird kid. I’ve missed you.
Brian: You were only seven.

Mayor: Viva Las Keithley!

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