Sunday, 12 August 2007

The Salon

I am a great fan of the film Barbershop and it's sequel Barbershop 2: Back in Business which stars rapper, Ice Cube. Set in a barbers in Chicago, where Black men go to the get anything but a haircut, the two films reflect the trials and tribulation of the staff who work in south side Chicago. Calvin Palmer played by Ice Cube manages the shop which was handed down to him by his father and in doing so also tries to manage the lives of his employees. Screened in 2002, these films demonstrated how important barbers and hairdressers were to African Americans; they were sanctuaries and havens for them to congregate, gossip, laugh and debate. Barbershop 1 & 2 were written by Mark Brown, my fellow compatriot who went on to write and direct The Salon which is the female equivalent of the Barbershop. Brown also wrote the play version of The Salon with Shelley Garrett which ran for a year on stage. This film stars Vivica A. Fox who came to fame from her roles in Set it Off and Soul Food and - oh yeah - being 50 Cents main squeeze at one stage. The delectable Vivica plays Jenny, a single mum who is running a successful beauty shop called The Beauty Shop while raising her young son. Her staff include a wide variety of characters such as Lashaunna played by Kym Whitley who as sassy as they come and takes no bullshit, Trina played by Taral Hicks who is a shameless gold digger, Brenda played by Monica Calhoun who has no self esteem and is bullied by her cruel boyfriend, Patrick who is played by Terrence Howard. There is D.D played by De'Angelo Wilson who is as camp as they come and Ricky played by Dondre Whitfield who has an aversion to gay men.

The film starts on an ordinary day and shows the women getting ready for work. It becomes very clear from the offset that Jenny is a confident, attractive and intelligent woman who is raising her son to have values and self worth. Her dismay and outrage when finding out her son has been sent home from school for fighting is clearly articulated to the viewer as well as to her son. The scenes in the hairdressers are non stop hilarious and we are treated to one joke after another. From D.D's campy catwalk dance when he enters the store, to the discussions of Halle Berry's Oscar winning performance in Monsters Ball and the touchy subject of interracial relationships. The film throws in a decoy with the entrance of Tami, played by Brooke Burns (one of Ricky's clients) a cookie cutter blond who is into Black culture in every way much to the disgust of Trina. The ordinary day turns into a drama when the Beauty Shop is threatened with closure because of plans to pull it down and build a parking lot. On a street which is infested with prostitutes, drug dealers and gangs, the salon is by far the most positive figure and Jenny is hell bent on making sure that it stays where it is. She enlists the help of Michael played by Darrin Dewit Henson who works as a lawyer and a gorgeous one at that to help her save her salon.

The Salon is not to be confused with the film called Beauty Shop which stars Queen Latifah who coincidentally or not was also in Barbershop 2. Both movies are set on the screenplay, The Salon and both have very similar story lines and were made in the same year but from what I can find out, Beauty Shop got the green light and was made into a movie while The Salon was left on the shelf for a few years and recently has been put out on DVD. I saw Beauty Shop a few years back and really liked it but The Salon blew me away. It is funny, sassy and full of great dialogue and despite the panning it has got from the media (what the hell do they know?) it is a really uplifting film.

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