Beauty Shop

(Bille Woodruff, USA, 2005)


Queen Latifah offers a beacon of joy amidst the often depressing murk of popular cinema. She enlivens any film in which she appears, even the most formulaic or uninspired (and there have been a couple of those). Taxi (2004) gave her a spirited role, but she was still playing second fiddle to a male lead. In Beauty Shop, Latifah takes the reins as both central star and co-producer.

The project is a spin-off from the successful Barbershop series. As in those films (and, further back, the 1976 hit Car Wash), everyday African-American culture is encapsulated in a group of disparate people talking and clowning around while on the job. The plot is secondary, a mere device to create situations, but at least it offers a hilariously camp villain in the form of rival hairdresser Jorge (Kevin Bacon).

It is curious to see how Latifah and her colleagues give the Barbershop template a chick-flick makeover. Gina (Latifah), a single mother, quits Jorge for the sake of her own business, which she must build from scratch. She surrounds herself with a mostly female crew and clientele, while pining for Joe (Djimon Hounsou), the hunky electrician upstairs.

Director Bille Woodruff, a veteran of music video, made a splash with his highly enjoyable debut feature, Honey (2003), but he has problems whipping this hit-and-miss material along. Ultimately, the film is a series of exhibitionistic routines, and some are a treat, including Alfre Woodard performing Maya Angelou’s earthy poetry, and Alicia Silverstone as a Southern gal trying desperately to join in the sisterly groove.

© Adrian Martin June 2005

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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