Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Beauty Shop - Queen Latifah, Baby!

It ain't pretty - there's no real plot to speak of, no action, a lotta loose ends. It ain't fine theatre. But Beauty Shop is an entertaining movie.

Gina is a hairstylist who gets tired of being pushed around by Beverly Hills hair apparent Jorge (Hor-hay), played with arrogant panache by Kevin Bacon, and opens her own beauty parlor. Okay, that's the gist of the story, and that happens in the first five minutes. The rest of the movie is how she melds a bunch of ne'er-do-well, bickering hairstylists into a happenin' place for a do.

Latifah is the star (and the producer) of this flick, and she's controlled here, a calm center to the melee' around her. Some great casting helps a lot -- Bacon, Alfre Woodard as an older stylist who just has to have the last say, and a bunch of young actors who, one guesses, are allowed to show their talent in this actionless but over-the-top, dialogue-filled movie. This movie exists and thrives just on personality alone. And at the heart of this personality parade is Queen Latifah, large of mind, body and voice. She seems a bit slimmed down for this role, but she's still larger-than-life in more ways than one.

And there's some great dialogue. The writers knew how to pace what story there is, and spreckle some colorful white-black exchanges in between. I didn't need an interpteter to figure out what was going on, something which other black comedies should offer, and yet I had the feeling I had been dropped in the middle of an authentic black scene, albeit a G-rated one.

I noticed a lot of kids in the audience who were just plain bored in the beginning. Get away from the sparkling witty jive talk and they went back to chatting with each other. But by the middle of the movie things quieted down as they seemed to be hooked by the side stories of family and how people of disparate backgrounds find common ground. And just maybe they'll pick up the subtle hints of how women want to be treated, and how to talk decently to each other.

Thumb's up to Latifah's latest, a movie that doesn't seem to obey most of the rules for situational comedy but hits the right tone.


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