Blow Dry

Blow Dry (15)

ALREADY touted as ‘the next Full Monty’, Blow Dry shouts its pedigree from the rooftops but fails to capitalise on the elements which made its illustrious predecessor such a mammoth hit.

Penned by Monty creator Simon Beaufoy, and featuring many of the elements – urban decay, small town life, broken relationships and illness – which permeate his stories, Blow Dry nevertheless falters due to the casting of the various principals.

Frankly, it’s a mess. Alan Rickman wanders through the proceedings as a Yorkshire hairstylist called Phil, Americans Josh Hartnett and Rachael Leigh Cook crop up as Americans rather clumsily inserted into the plot – one as Rickman’s son, the other as the transatlantic chick he falls for – and Natasha Richardson and Rachel Griffiths make for an unlikely lesbian couple.

Blow Dry aspires to be a Strictly Ballroom made in Yorkshire (it was shot on location throughout West Yorks, primarily in Batley and Dewsbury) but it misses the magic of Baz Luhrmann’s Aussie comedy/drama by miles…

The circus really comes to town when the Yorkshire town of Keighley is announced as the venue for the National British Hairdressing Championships. The lugubrious mayor (Warren Clarke, underplaying but scene-stealing throughout) ranks the event, and its top prize, the Silver Scissors, as the biggest thing to happen to the town since Hovis came in slices. Others are not so sure.

So when the clipped, crimped and carefully coiffured denizens of the hairdressing community descend on Keighley, the scene is set for a battle royal, both between the various stylists and their rivals, and between Phil, his ex-wife Shelley (Richardson) and her partner Sandra (Griffiths).

Blow Dry tries to follow the style of The Full Monty throughout, but from the outset this feels like two films in one. Beaufoy’s attempts to pepper his story with social realist drama is sabotaged by the overt American influences exercised over the plot.

Most notable is the glaring inclusion of Americans in what is a quintessentially English – nay, Yorkshire – tale. Rachael Leigh Cook is the very transatlantic daughter of Bill Nighy’s camp stylist, Ray Roberts, and fits – just – into the proceedings. Josh Hartnett, on the other hand, is the cuckoo in the nest as Rickman’s son, Brian. He adopts and mangles a quasi-Yorkshire accent and is the most ill-fitting element of the film save for Rickman, a Shakespearean star who is about as convincing as a Keighley barber as Bruce Willis in tights.

Where Blow Dry succeeds is in Beaufoy’s comedy, much of which appears to remain intact. Some lines are pure gold; others jar as if they have been rudely slotted in in place of something else. Nevertheless, he is one of the few writers who can feature cancer in a script and make it funny.

With its miscasting, rewriting and re-invention, Blow Dry is but a shadow of the film it should have been. The only winners in this messy soufflé are Bill Nighy – again proving his value in English cinema – and Irishman Paddy Breathnach, here helming his first major film after his success with I Went Down, three years ago.

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