blow dry(2001)
director: paddy breathnach
alan rickman, natasha richardson, rachel griffiths

. Blow Dry is the latest addition to a genre of British film that celebrates the quaint wit and resilience of British provincial life, the most famous of which was The Full Monty. The setting is, as always, a decaying town or provincial city, set amidst magnificent countryside, accessorized with the requisite closed factory and beset with an air of grim desparation. 

In The Full Monty, gender lines are crossed when a bunch of regular blokes turn to male stripping for cash and, ultimately, fulfillment as men. Blow Dry is set in the real-life, working-class high-camp world of competition hairdressing, a place where spiv and ponce culture intersect, and a peculiarly British love of tacky spectacle abounds.

Alan Rickman plays a dispirited former hairdressing ace seeking refuge in a mean little barber shop in the town of Keighley, forced to confront his past when the Silver Scissors competition comes to town. His ex-wife (Natasha Richardson) has set up a salon in the same town, where she lives with her lover (Rachel Griffiths), Rickman’s former hair model. When his rival (Bill Nighy from Still Crazy) shows up, and his ex-wife learns she has terminal cancer, the stage is set for Rickman to confront his past and put everyone’s life back together. The trimphant ending is, alas, visible ten minutes into the film.

There’s a Romeo and Juliet romance as well, between Josh Hartnett and Rachael Leigh Cook as Rickman’s and Nighy’s estranged children, but it suffers in the face of the real skill and depth Rickman, Richardson and Griffiths bring to their roles. Thanks to them, the film is as enjoyable as it is predictable, but their effortless rapport and charm makes you despair of a future when actors like Hartnett and Cook are forced to take on adult personas.