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Monday, 3 October 2016

Retro Review: Beauty Shop (2005)

Beauty Shop
Cast: Queen Latifah, Kevin Bacon, Alicia Silverstone, Andie Macdowell, Mena Suvari, Djimon Hounsou, Keisha-Knight Pullium
Genre: Comedy
Worldwide Gross: $37.2 million

Plot: Far from Chicago, hairdresser Gina Norris (Queen Latifah) has relocated to Atlanta with her daughter (Paige Hurd) and has quickly established herself as a rare talent in her profession. But after repeatedly butting heads with her shady, over-the-top boss, Jorge (Kevin Bacon), Norris sets out to create her own salon - even snagging a few of Jorge's employees and clients including Lynn (Alicia Silverstone) and Terri (Andie Macdowell), respectively. Now Jorge will do anything to shut her down.  

'Impressive Cast Ensemble - Yet Somewhat Borderline Script Hampers This Comedy Effort'

Beauty Shop tells the story of stylist Gina (Queen Latifah) as she relocates to Atlanta so her young daughter can attend music school. She finds a job at a salon working for an arrogant and stuck-up boss named Jorge and it isn't long until he gets on her back, which irritates Gina, so much she quits and ends up opening her own beauty salon. & thus, taking with her shampoo girl, Lyn (Alicia Silverstone) and many of her clients. At first, the other girls at Gina's newly- owned shop don't take to Lyn and there is some friction between them, but eventually, her skills win them over. 

Latifah reprises her role as Gina from Barbershop 2 and holds her own against Jorge, who doesn't like her infringing on his ideas and wants her to follow his protocol. Which she refuses to do, quits and ends up owning her own shop, with clients and customers flocking to it, virtually in no time.

Sheryl Underwood channels her Flip Wilson as the soul food cart lady, whose catfish and collard greens go down a treat with the customers. 

But probably the highlight performance came from Kevin Bacon, who was severely underused and yet he completely hams it up as the camp, Euro-centric and highly conceited, Jorge (pronounced as Hor-hey in America) with his fake accent, shaggy hair and blond highlights, followed by Alfre Woodard with her Maya Angelou- inspired quotes. Some may think this is another case of typecasting when it comes to bad guys for Kevin, yet here, he looked like he was having a whale of a time. & his performance, which was so radically different to so many of the other roles that he has played before, was completely unexpected and out of the blue from an actor, of whom we don't normally associate with in comedy movies. Also watch out for Octavia Spencer, who is having her hair done by Golden Brooks (as Chanel)

Unfortunately, however, Beauty shop is beset with problems: one of them being there are too many sub-plots being tacked on. These of which are short-lived and not addressed properly and that it lacks some of the efficiency and bite of Barbershop. As a movie, it pretty much plays things safe. Too safe I reckon and the script feels nothing more than as vignettes or episodes from a TV series strung together. Structure-wise, it's so borderline with not that many exciting scenes and surprises, although a few African-American colloquialisms are uttered. With the characters, some of them were interesting & some of them weren't as interesting. Although luckily for Beauty Shop, it is standout performers, for me in Kevin Bacon, Alicia Silverstone, Alfre Woodard, that essentially saves this film from being inferior and completely forgettable. The queen herself, Queen Latifah is good here and whilst I can't doubt or fault her acting abilities, I just feel sometimes with the characters and lines she's given, they don't necessarily reflect or represent how great she is as a performer. But it was good to see her imposing herself in this movie. 

Another issue I had was the complete face-heel-turn by Mena Suvari's character, Joanne; all because Gina didn't fire Chanel and in doing so decides not to promote Gina's hair conditioner after all, right towards the end. Though I don't think Suvari and Andie MacDowell will put this movie at the top of their resumes. 

Yes, this movie is a gender flip on Barbershop. There is not much difference between this movie and that one starring Cedric the Entertainer and Ice Cube and Beauty Shop isn't that original. The plot is really nothing new; music director Billie Woodruff doesn't take risks, nor try anything new, whatsoever. The film feels static with not much oomph and excitement, as well as many very memorable scenes, - apart from the handbag man on the street who goes 'fierce!' and the Sheryl Underwood character. In fact, I had wished there were a few more scenes with him in it, and I could see him as someone, who would've easily elevated this movie even further & made it funnier and amusing. I'd have liked to have seen him in the shop trying to sell fake designer bags. That would have been a hoot. 

Dijmon Hounsou was arguably the weakest of the main male actors as Joe and in honesty, he was miscast; the story-line with Gina and Joe falling in love just wasn't as convincing, nor written very well. I think if it had a different (and better) actor playing Joe opposite Queen Latifah, the chemistry would be far more plausible. That's just me personally. Though I did sort of buy into the James & Lynn couple-to-be ship. Both James and Joe acted as the film's main eye candy for the ladies. 

If this was a TV series, the sub-plots would have made more sense, but here for a movie, it was a bit unnecessary to have. 

Final Verdict:

Beauty Shop is harmless, pleasant and lightweight with not much to offer as a movie, and whilst it is a good way to spend a few hours, this film deserved a better and much funnier script to go with the impressive casting. The film would have worked better too, had it got rid of the vignettes and just have it function as a standard comedy movie.

It has its moments, but the flaws in the script let it down slightly and Woodruff just didn't find a focus to help elevate this movie. Still, I'd give Beauty Shop an extra half a mark for Kevin Bacon's performance alone also. 


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