BEAUTICIAN AND THE BEAST
Release Date: February 01, 1997
Starring: Fran Drescher & Timothy Dalton
Genre: Romantic comedy
Audience: Older children to adults
Runtime: 105 minutes
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Director: Ken Kwapis
Writer: Todd Graff
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Joy Miller (Drescher), a wise-cracking, Jewish New York City hairdresser, earns a living teaching cosmetology night classes at the local high school. She receives attention when she rescues her class and various undesirable but helpless lab creatures from an accidental fire. Ira Grushinsky (Ian McNiece) is an emissary of a former communist regime, known as Slovetzia, who has been sent to America to find a suitable tutor for the three children of his country’s dictator, Boris Pochenko (Timothy Dalton). Mistakenly, the emissary assumes that Miller is a science teacher and hires her for the position. Miller is under the impression that she is being hired as a cosmetology instructor and does not discover the truth until after her arrival at the castle.
In Europe, Miller desires to find herself. Meanwhile, Ira desires to keep his head. Miller, in the spirit of American positive thinking, says “Let’s make the best of the error and not tell anyone.” Here begins the first of several deceptions. The children embrace Miller and her western ways. The tyrannical father at first rejects her lackadaisical methods of child rearing and educational instruction, but comes to accept and assimilate the spirit of love and respect associated with her approach.
Various subplots surface, such as a love affair of Pochenko’s daughter with a political revolutionary, Slovetzia’s second-in-command who wishes to usurp Pochenko’s authority. Also, Pochenko desires to change the world’s view of him as a “beast.” All of this is woven together to produce transformations through revelation of wrong actions and attitudes, leading eventually to repentance.
Drescher and Dalton have an appealing stage chemistry. Both do a fine job defining well-worn characters, as do the supporting actors. The movie’s plot moves smoothly, and the story is well written, but the wise cracks by Drescher, which range from off color to obnoxious, could easily have been left out. After James Bond, Dalton takes a step down the star scale to play in this picture.
This is a story about relationships: man to woman, parent to child, ruler to subjects, and culture to culture. It spoofs communism, authority, and subjectivity yet offers appropriate solutions. The family is uplifted, with the chain of authority intact. Deception, though used as a literary device to move the plot, finds its way into the relationships much more often than necessary. Homosexuality is addressed in several off-color remarks and is also portrayed by a minor character in the beauty school scene. Though not necessarily condoned, neither is it condemned.
A fine line is drawn when it comes to teaching respect for authority, and Miller preaches that you do not earn respect by instilling fear. That is true, but deceit is not the correct alternative. THE BEAUTICIAN AND THE BEAST makes no claims as an event picture or a big crowd gatherer. It is tailor-made for Drescher fans who enjoy her "Nanny" character and want to see her face on a bigger screen.
Drescher and Dalton have an appealing chemistry. The movie’s plot moves smoothly, but the wise cracks by Drescher, which range from off color to obnoxious, could have been left out. This is a story about relationships. While spoofing authority, a family is shown as uplifted, with the chain of authority intact. Deception, as a literary device, moves the plot more often than necessary. Homosexuality is addressed in several off-color remarks. THE BEAUTICIAN AND THE BEAST is tailor-made for Drescher fans who enjoy the character she plays in “The Nanny."