Friday, April 15, 2005

Beauty Shop

Could it be that Queen Latifah's stardom has reached its highpoint with 2002's Chicago? One can't help but consider this thought when the quality of her film choices have been on a downhill slide since with films like the average Bringing down the House, the disappointing Taxi and her latest Beauty Shop.

In Beauty Shop she plays Gina Norris, the sole black stylist in a salon owned by a an egotistical Frenchman conveniently named Jorge (expect a ho-hum "surprise" later); luckily, this character is essayed with amusing ease by Kevin Bacon. To call their relationship harmonious could be the biggest thing you can wish for in this movie. After one heated exchange Gina is forced to quit. With the prodding of a friend, she takes out a loan and starts her own... what else, beauty shop!

As what usually happens, Jorge's biggest clients follow Gina to her new shop thus leaving the poor Frenchman seething with envy...hmmm. Soon, Gina meets Djimon Hounsou's Joe (in a neighbor role that's almost a copy of his castaway character from In America) who provides her the obligatory love angle.

After these series of character introductions, the movie plods along uninterestingly until the weak climax and messed up conclusion finally sent the film gasping into its final credits.

Wanting in plot, this movie however offers some surprises that keeps the viewer somewhat entertained, albeit infrequently. The biggest surprise is Alicia Silverstone. She returns to big-screen acting with a sugary turn as Gina's white friend who tries so hard to fit into the black sisterhood of stylists she works with and ends up charming the only male stylist in the shop whom almost everyone is openly coveting.

Alfre Woodard plays the Maya Angelou-blurting stylist Ms. Josephine and here she shows how good a truly great actress can make out of a one-dimensional character she is playing. She is most enthralling every time she bursts into her poetic mode; methinks how unfair Hollywood can get when an extremely talented actress like her could end up playing supporting roles in an otherwise forgettable movie.

There really is a lot to want in this movie. Had the writers not preoccupied themselves with feminizing the successful Barbershop series and made a wholly original story, they could have given Latifah a better vehicle and consequently a decent-at least movie. She just can't carry a dead, uninspired story! I thought her turn in Taxi was her low point; this is lower!

It's not good when after watching the movie the moments that linger in your thoughts are those that annoys you the most. Take the case of this recurring radio announcer who is good but seems to be a last minute character addition designed to provide that needed warmth feeling of amazement at the end. There's this loud Catfish Rita character whose abrasive voice makes you squirm in your seat! And there is this... oh, spare me, please, and get me my own scissors!

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