Indie film retro-review: Blow Dry (UK, 2001)

The story:

The Allens is a family of hairdressers in a small Yorkshire town that have  not spoken to each other in 10 years, since Shelley Allen (the late Natasha Richardson) ran off with hair model Sandra (Rachel Griffiths), leaving husband Phil Allen (Alan Rickman) alone to carry on with the hair salon they have and to raise their son, Brian (Josh Hartnett). But Shelley has cancer and has only a few months to live and it is up to her to make sure her little family get along with each other before she passes on.

As in answer to her prayers, the British Hairdressing Competition come to the town and she convinces the whole family, including girlfriend Sandra, to compete. As the Allens muddle along in the competition, they manage to put aside differences, compete as a team and eventually become the family Shelley has always wanted to be with.

The verdict:

I’ve always loved small, English indie films. They always have that quirkiness, that very Englishness about it that sets them apart from American ones. This movie is no exception. You have Alan Rickman as the hairdresser with an axe to grind, Natasha Richardson as the ex-wife dying of cancer who ran off with Rachel Griffith’s Sandra. But it’s the supporting characters that are fun to watch. Josh Hartnett’s Brian moonlights as the hairdresser for the dead and spends time talking to them while he styles their hair, the always intriguing and fun to watch Bill Nighy (who I adore since “Love Actually”) as Rickman’s Allen’s arrogant arch nemesis, Ray Robertson, the bumbling mayor who gains the town’smridicule for hosting the competition, but quickly gains their respect when he gains more confidence for hosting it. Other quirky characters include the sheep farmers with whom Bill Nighy’s team stay in, the “Kilburn Cutters” (Kilburn! I actually know where that is, yay!) a pair of brothers and a model who comes between them (when she suddenly and stupidly asks one of the brothers to dye her pubes red) and the pensioner, Daisy (Rosemary Harris), that Shelley strikes up a friendship with while doing her hair for free on her days  off. The only one who seems a bit two-dimensional is Rachel Leigh Cook’s character, who just seem to appear to provide eye candy (which I don’t mind) and a love interest to Josh Hartnett’s character (who by the way, is an underrated actor who does a pretty good English accent here). Anyway, this cast of characters provide the entertainment as the main characters figure out how to deal with each other, and I like that as the hairdressing competitioin heats up, the Allens’ relationships are also brought to the fore and they have no choice but to confront each other about it. I also like that the lesbianism in this movie is treated not as an issue in itself, but as just a regular part of it. When Sandra and Phil finally confront each other, Sandra quietly tells him she just fell in love with his wife and that was it.

Overall, this is an entertaining little film and makes me want to have my hair done pronto. ^^

Alan Rickman Phil Allen
Natasha Richardson Shelley Allen
Rachel Griffiths Sandra
Rachael Leigh Cook Christina Robertson
Josh Hartnett Brian Allen
Bill Nighy Ray (Raymond) Robertson
Warren Clarke Tony
Rosemary Harris Daisy
Hugh Bonneville Louis
Heidi Klum Jasmine
Peter McDonald Vincent
Michael McElhatton Robert
David Bradley Noah
Ben Crompton Saul

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