Blow Dry

Director: Paddy Breathnach

When producer Sydney Pollack explains on the DVD featurette why he attached himself to a comedy about the British National Hairdressing Championship, he simply says that when he began describing the plot to others they instantly smiled. For amusement alone is a vital reason to check out Blow Dry, which is a slight but affable comedy drama written by the Oscar nominated Full Monty scripter Simon Beaufoy. Although it does go from laughs to downright camp, it’s an intriguing blend of humor and heart as we meet local barber Phil Allen (Alan Rickman) and his son Brian (Josh Hartnett) who are lured back into competition alongside Phil’s cancer-ridden ex-wife Shelley (Natasha Richardson) who had left her husband years ago for his hair model Sandra (Rachel Griffiths). Phil’s bitter rival Ray Robertson (played by the always scene-stealing Bill Nighy) reconnects with his daughter fresh from Minneapolis (Rachael Leigh Cook, who like Hartnett is actually from Minnesota) and pulls out some old tricks in order to take home the trophy. The actors were all given a crash course from the Redken Salon in order to fake their way through the complicated high speed styling scenes and the likable cast keeps us watching even when the film grows increasingly ridiculous. Rachel Griffiths made an astute observation in the behind-the-scenes featurette by comparing the film’s tone and content to Baz Lurhman's Strictly Ballroom and indeed after the film veers off the tracks into camp and cheap laughs, one feels that a touch of Luhrman or even American mock-doc director Christopher Guest would’ve set things right again and films like Ballroom or Guest’s Best in Show would’ve made excellent models for director Breathnach, in the same way that Rachel Griffiths is an excellent hair model for Alan Rickman in the film. Cute fun although not as good as the other British comedies with serious undertones brought to the US by Miramax including Brassed Off and Sliding Doors.