‘Permanent,’ About the Hairstyle, Falls Flat

Posted December 15, 2017 3:53 p.m. EST

Eager to guarantee her social fitness at a new school before the term begins, the teenage Auralie (Kira McLean) badgers her parents, Jean and Jim (Patricia Arquette and Rainn Wilson), into allowing her to get a permanent. Arguing poverty, Auralie’s mother and father take her to a beauty-training salon for the procedure, and her-once slack locks, left in tight curlers too long, are majorly poofed. Her hair looks like Bob Dylan’s on the cover of his landmark album “Blonde on Blonde.” That was great for Dylan in 1966 New York, but not so much for an adolescent girl “somewhere in Virginia,” according to a title card, in 1982.

Written and directed by Colette Burson, “Permanent” uses hair and hairstyles as a metaphor for self-worth. Besides Auralie’s unfortunate situation, Jim, a former Air Force One steward now trying to get through med school, is attached to a very unconvincing toupee. The metaphor goes limp after about 20 minutes. This family comedy then flails about, serving up coming-of-age anecdotes involving mean girls, karate classes and sexually predatory boys. One new “friend” of Auralie’s is eager to show her his penis (what is it with guys, anyway?), which, he insists, looks like E.T. The movie wraps up by cashing in on an interracial friendship subplot for Auralie, a putative feel-good flourish that just feels unearned, to say the least.

As the parents, Wilson and Arquette seem just about as tired as the characters they’re playing. As Auralie, McLean is appealing and fresh-faced and could do well in a better coming-of-age movie in a few years.

— Production Notes:


Written and directed by Colette Burson.

With: Kira McLean (Auralie), Patricia Arquette (Jean) and Rainn Wilson (Jim).

Rated PG-13.