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Blow Dry review

Simon Beaufoy isn't a scriptwriter who takes the simple route. His screenplays for The Full Monty, The Darkest Light and Among Giants bulged with bulky issues - and that was all before Monty became such a crowd-pleaser. If you sometimes get the impression that Beaufoy spreads himself thin, this hairdressing movie feels even more diluted: curiously, it's "based on the screenplay" by Beaufoy, and you wonder how much of it is his.

Not that it's all bad. Beaufoy always treats his characters warmly and Natasha Richardson, Rachel Griffiths and Alan Rickman play them sensitively without compromising their rough edges. If nothing else, at least Beaufoy had a crack at complicating a predictable tale of victory against the odds with the awkward themes of cancer, divorce and ageing. It's about families too and not many films incorporate a lesbian couple into what's meant by "family".

But who put Josh Hartnett and his stupid Yank-Geordie twang in here? And Rachael Leigh Cook, as the girl who pops in from Minneapolis for the hairdressing shebang and falls for him? It looks like they've been crowbarred in to pull the young punters and it's here that Blow Dry becomes downright schmaltzy and patronising (the scene in which Cook's Christina lifts a dour sheep-shearer's spirits with a spot of hair dye would turn the toughest stomach).

Perhaps all this camp clipping action was never going to seem that important next to Beaufoy's weightier themes. Maybe that's the point, but it throws the film off balance, leaving director Paddy Breathnach struggling with a mish-mash of "issues movie" and tender-to-sloppy feelgood fare. He pulls off some great character moments but, gaudy finale aside, the competition scenes lack spirit and visual punch. It's a difficult film to dislike because its heart is in the right place - but its art, sadly, is all over the shop.

Cut it how you like, this one's thin on top. Despite some meaty material and strong performances from the older actors, the plot is over-determined and the cutesy teen-movie angle shouldn't be there at all. Beaufoy-lite, if you can imagine that.

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