Feeling as crustily comfortable as its titular environ, “The Village Barbershop” is an old-hat story — curmudgeon grudgingly takes in brash youth, with eventual life-enhancing benefits for both. But in this case, the old hat is well worn, and debuting writer-director Chris Ford has blown most of the dust off. Result is a cannily low-key charmer that will play especially well at regional and smaller fests. Theatrical chances would depend on getting the screens and long-enough runs to build word of mouth a la the not-dissimilar “Waitress.” DVD and cable sales should be tidy.
Co-winner (with “Sherman’s Way”) of the feature-narrative audience award at Cinequest, “Barbershop” is indeed a crowdpleaser, if the kind (no marquee stars, skewing toward older auds) that seldom finds a place in the theatrical marketplace these days — which is too bad, since this is precisely the sort of movie people who no longer go to movies often complain “they just don’t make anymore.”
Arthur Leroldi (“Cheers’ ” John Ratzenberger) is a gruff Reno widower who’s just buried Enzo, his more congenial partner in a 30-year barbershop biz. Enzo also kept the books, and the shop’s emerging financial woes put Art in a poor bargaining position with greedy current landlord Jacobi (Amos Glick). Latter would love to break the too-generous lease his late father brokered for a tenant paying market rates.
To pick up business, Art claims he’ll hire another barber to replace Enzo. Despite insistence that the shop doesn’t do “lady hair,” let alone hire women, Gloria (Shelly Cole of “Gilmore Girls”) show up looking for the job. She’s a licensed cosmetologist, has done bookkeeping — and she threatens a gender discrimination suit. So she’s in.
Unbeknownst to Art, at least at first, Gloria desperately needs this kind of stable employment, having been left by her trucker boyfriend (Josh Hutchinson) for another woman just as she was about to tell him she’s pregnant. Cheerfully asked to vacant his trailer home as well, she steals it instead, parking it behind the barbershop.
Late complications (too easily resolved) threaten to ruin everything. But apart from a couple incongruous homophobic laughs, “The Village Barbershop” is just as warm, humorous and ingratiating as it means to be, with solid work by all principal cast.
Reno is flavorfully (which is to say, kinda-depressingly) captured in widescreen lensing, and other tech contributions are sharp. An excess of routine Melissa Etheridge-type rock tunes is a minor soundtrack debit.