|By Fred Topel
In Theaters March 30
Mena Suvari is back and bigger than ever, literally. In Beauty Shop, Suvari plays a customer of the title salon. Her character, Joanne, is a rich socialite in Atlanta who brags about her new breast implants at $8,000 each. While plastic surgery can be a serious issue for many, Suvari was reassured that the film’s jokes reinforced a positive message.
“I was a bit concerned while we were shooting what kind of image I was portraying for young women, like oh yeah, it’s great and you should all get boobs,” Suvari said. “I think it’s done well because they all make fun of me.”
The well known American Beauty has not cosmetically altered anything, and the enhanced chest was achieved through costuming in the film. “I wouldn’t do anything like that. That’s my own personal opinion. I think there are benefits to plastic surgery and I think it’s the case with a lot of things in society but we kind of take them too far. So that’s my opinion on it. I think that to some people, cosmetic surgery is a wonderful thing and for some people it’s kind of abused.”
Ultimately, it turns out Joanne deserves to be the butt of jokes because she proves herself to be mean and vindictive. At first offering to help Gina (Queen Latifah) sell her hair products to a major corporation, Joanne takes back the offer as soon as she doesn’t get her way in a minor argument.
“I started to even wonder that if the offer to hook Gina up with this beauty company to rep her product, I was almost wondering if that was just something she did to impress everybody else there in the beauty shop. [I wondered] if it was really genuine or not because she’s just so mean spirited. And that way that she completely takes it back a second later.”
Every character in Beauty Shop has their own style, and some of the stylists create some pretty wild ‘dos. Suvari was a bit jealous that her hair always had to be straight blonde. “I was really hoping that I could get some really crazy ghetto do. I was dying for them to give me braids by the end of the film or just to have fun with it. That’s what’s great about it. You’d always see these different color hair extensions in the trailer and bright, neon colors and I was like, ‘Oh, I want to have some crazy do done,’ but she always has straight hair. There was one moment where they twisted it up and that was as close as I came to really getting something ghetto fabulous.”
Of course, despite a beauty school boot camp, none of the actresses actually worked on each other’s hair for the film. “We had hair and makeup on the set and then we had consultants right there on the set that would always be watching all the other women, the women playing the stylists. They had to go to this beauty boot camp to learn how to hold all the instruments and put the cape around somebody and lay them in the sink, stuff like that.”
A veteran of ensembles like the American Pie films, American Beauty and TV’s Six Feet Under, Suvari loves to share the screen. Beauty Shop gave her more costars than she’d ever had before. “I had worked on ensembles before but never with that many people and not with so many women. They’re such great actresses and Alfre [Woodard] and Alicia [Silverstone] and Golden [Brooks], it was so much fun hanging out together and it was just such a comfortable environment and kind of doing something that we all loved to do that just seemed so natural.”
Part of the beauty shop dynamic, as in the Barbershop films, is the random banter between the stylists, often including the customers. Suvari enjoyed getting in on some of the banter. “It’s fun. I mean, off screen, we just had a blast and I loved working with Golden because our characters have this catty relationship and then we would carry that with us off set. We would just be calling each other names and messing with each other and just cracking up laughing. It was great. I mean, it just being a comedy like that, it was very comfortable for me. It was just so fun because you just had so much freedom to do anything that you wanted. [Director] Bille [Woodruff] would just keep the cameras rolling and everybody would add something. That was a lot of fun. It was great. I mean, there are so many environments that I love to work in, but they’re all just very different. This was just a really nice relaxing one.”
Beauty Shop opens Wednesday, March 30.