Blow Dry [2001]

Despite a gifted Anglo-American cast, Blow Dry strikes an uneasy balance between sentiment and camp. It aims for the same sort of high-wire act that Strictly Ballroom and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert pulled off so effortlessly, but melodrama wins the day. The comic moments are suitably over-the-top (as expected in a film about dueling hairdressers), but rarely as amusing as intended. The relationships between barbershop owner Phil (Alan Rickman), ex-wife Shelley (Natasha Richardson), and Sandra (Rachel Griffiths), "the other woman," could be more fully developed but are affecting nonetheless. The setting is West Yorkshire. The event that brings them together is the British National Hairdressing Championships. Phil initially resists the urge to compete as it reminds him of the success he and Shelley once enjoyed, but his son Brian (Pearl Harbor's Josh Hartnett) convinces him to give it a go. Hartnett and Rachael Leigh Cook (She's All That), as the daughter of Phil's old nemesis, seem like peculiar casting choices for a British film, but Hartnett's accent is passable (Cook plays an American) and they don't embarrass themselves as much as supermodel Heidi Klum, who plays a tacky, two-timing hair model. The screenplay is by Simon Beaufoy of Full Monty fame. Although not up to that standard--and certainly no match for Shampoo (the greatest hairdressing movie of all time)--Blow Dry is still a good showcase for the talents of its three leads. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

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