The title to this film, “Den skaldede frisor” apparently translates as “The Bald Hairdresser.” That would be a more appropriate title to this decidedly ambivalent European-style family drama from Danish director Susanne Bier.
A middle-aged woman, Ida (Trine Dyrholm), is told by her doctor that they think they’ve got all the cancer, but they can’t be sure. She’s already had a radical mastectomy, and lost all her hair. When the doctor suggests that this might be a difficult time for Ida’s husband as well, Ida just shrugs it off, saying that she has no worries there. Then, of course, she comes home and catches him with another woman. Thilde from accounting, who skedaddles out of there quickly, but seems remarkably unashamed. Actually, so is Leif, who claims, when Ida does the “How could you?” bit, that it’s been a rough time for him too. So he’s going for the sympathy vote? Ida and Leif were planning to go to Italy together, for their daughter’s destination wedding, but Ida decides she’ll just go separately, and try not to bother their daughter, Astrid (Molly Blixt Egelind), with it, because she has enough worries as it is. But Ida is so upset she rams into another car in the airport parking garage.
That car, it turns out, is driven by Philip (Pierce Brosnan), who was also on his way to catch a flight to Italy, because, well, he’s the dad of Astrid’s groom, Patrick (Sebastian Jessen). Philip and Ida “bumping into each other,” literally, is supposed to be the beginning of some middle-aged romance, but it never quite gets off the ground. Philip is an angry man who’s mad at the world because his wife up and died on him. He treats his employees like dirt, but they seem to have developed a strange loyalty to him anyway, perhaps because he is at least impartial in his overbearing expectations. Though he is handsome, he is not at all kind, which also makes it perplexing to the viewer why his late wife’s sister, Benedikte (Paprika Steen), continues to have a crush on him. She’s certainly got her hands full with her rebellious teenage daughter, who shows up drunk. Patrick, for his part, seems inordinately interested in one of his groomsmen. Astrid, though attractive and sweet, seems inappropriately unconcerned about his lack of affection for her. She thinks maybe he’s nervous and distracted?
The wedding party continues to worsen, as Leif decides to bring Thilde, who claims him as her “fiancee,” which makes her impossible for anyone else to ignore, including Astrid’s furious brother, Kenneth (Micky Skeel Hansen). So, how do we work Pierce Brosnan with the Swedish? We just pretend he understands it, while we put the subtitles on the screen so the viewers understand. And why should we care about any of the characters, all of whom are fatally flawed? Well, that’s the problem, really. There’s precious little left to root for, because, despite the purloined title to the Beatles song, we need a little more than love, if that’s merely defined as physical attraction. We’d like some depth of character, please, and there’s just none to be found here. What we do have is a lot of self-involved people bewildered at the behavior of others around them, even their closest family members. Maybe that’s closer to home than we’d like to consider.
Ronald P. Salfen is the minister at St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church in Irving, Texas.