"The Full Monty," with its blue-collar male strippers, is a hard act for its writer Simon Beaufoy to follow, as "Blow Dry" proves.
"Blow Dry" has the usual sterling British cast, with Americans Josh Hartnett and Rachael Leigh Cook fitting right in, and a picturesque Yorkshire town as its setting. But it doesn't really kick in until the halfway point, nor does it get much help from director Paddy Breathnach, unable to generate much energy. Despite its dollops of good-natured humor and sentiment, "Blow Dry" is likely to play better on the tube as a likable-enough diversion.
Natasha Richardson's Shelly and Rachel Griffiths' Sandra have been partners in a beauty salon and in their private lives for 10 years. During that time, Shelly's ex-husband Phil (Alan Rickman), who runs a barbershop with his son Brian (Hartnett), has remained bitterly estranged from Shelly and Sandra. Once, Shelly and Phil were a prizewinning hairstylist team until Sandra became their model, and the two women unexpectedly fell in love.
Just as Shelly has learned she has terminal cancer, the town's mayor (Warren Clarke) has expressed hope that she and Phil might strike a truce so that their city could be represented when it hosts the upcoming British Hairdressers' Federation annual competition. Since Shelly wants to make peace with her ex and become closer to Brian before she dies, she sees the competition as a way of bringing everyone together. Phil is not exactly open to the proposal, and when fate and human nature interact in a way that persuades him to agree, he assumes all that Shelly is concerned with is winning.