THE OLD SAYING is that a girl's not put together until she's got three essentials: A good set of undergarments, a polished pair of shoes, and a terrific haircut. The latter can be harder to attain than a good cheeseburger in Glasgow, which is the central force behind this mockumentary. Crawford Mackenzie is a willful Scottish hairdresser who is ecstatic when he receives a letter from the World International Hairdressing Federation inviting him to take part in a US competition. It's a big coup for the small-town stylist.
THE BIG TEASE
directed by Kevin Allen
with Craig Ferguson, Kevin Allen, and Frances Fisher
opens February 11 at Broadway Market
Played by the gracefully comedic Craig Ferguson (The Drew Carey Show), Crawford heads to LA with a documentary crew to vie for the prestigious Platinum Scissors Award. There, director Kevin Allen—who also plays Crawford's lover, Gareth—adopts a much lighter tone than in his 1997 black comedy Twin Town. Like fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi in Unzipped, Crawford's a mishmash of prima donna and paranoia. By night, he obsesses over a photo of the reigning Platinum Scissorhands—the painfully coiffed, painfully Norwegian Stig Ludwiggssen (David Rasche). By day, he confidently waltzes into the WIHF Headquarters to claim his place in the Southern California hair hierarchy.
The entire time Crawford is blissfully skipping through Hollywood maxing out his credit card and gawking at celebs (David Hasselhoff makes an especially indulgent cameo), it's easy to guess that his spree will soon encounter a second-act obstacle. It turns out the coveted invitation Crawford received from the WIHF was simply a form letter. Naturally, penniless but proud, the disheveled cutter vows to enter the competition. Making an audience care about a highly mocked occupation is no easy task. But doing so with a main character who's also ensnared in the old Horatio Alger, pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps plotline—naﶥ foreigner goes to big city, loses money, tries to beat the odds—is downright dangerous.
Despite its clich餠premise, The Big Tease is endearing without being saccharine. This is largely due to the Scottish narration. (See also: Groundskeeper Willie on The Simpsons.) Also, underdogs—especially gay ones with brogues—hold our sympathies better in cutthroat Cali than any Julia Roberts-style Cinderella/prostitute character. As the hopelessly optimistic Crawford tells his cameraman at the airport, "This is like a modern Braveheart, only it's a hairdresser movie, most of it's indoors, and nobody gets killed."