Agatha Christie meets Pedro Almodóvar in this flamboyant British murder mystery set in the unglamorous world of regional hairdressing competitions. The victim is a hairdresser who’s been scalped backstage at an event seven hours into coiffing his piece de resistance. He’s found dead by the model returning from a fag break. “One minute he’s shaping my ’fro, the next he’s dead,” she marvels.
Medusa Deluxe is packed with funny, outrageous lines, and there are excellent performances especially from the female cast of hairdressers behaving badly. Without a doubt, it is an impressive debut from director Thomas Hardiman, even if his script doesn’t quite pull off a first-class whodunnit.
The film unfolds backstage as models and hairdressers wait to be interviewed by detectives following the murder. Any one of them could be the killer. There’s hairdresser Cleve (Clare Perkins), a perfectionist with a violent streak; she admits to having once bashed a rival over the head with a glass conditioner bottle. (“I’m a proud confident female.”) Another hairdresser, Kendra (Harriet Webb), is suspected of fixing the prize with competition boss Rene; he’s a northerner with a salt-and-pepper Elvis quiff. Rene may have been in love with the victim, whose husband soon arrives with their baby (the only character here not under suspicion).
Speculation and gossip spread like head-lice, transmitted by cinematographer Robbie Ryan’s camera as it snakes in and out of dressing rooms, along strip-lit corridors, through fire doors and down concrete stairwells. The steadicam shots have been tricksily edited by Fouad Gaber to make the film look like one continuous take.
We never get sight of an actual copper; instead, model Inez (Kae Alexander) turns Columbo with her sly line of questioning. As a detective story, the film loses steam about halfway through, and the revelation at the end is less than stunning. Still, the women who form the heart and soul of the film are terrific. You could imagine this being turned into a TV series, perhaps with Sharon Horgan; she’d have a hoot with sweary hairdressers macing each other with TRESemmé.
Medusa Deluxe is released on 9 June in UK and Irish cinemas, and on 4 August on Mubi.
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