Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Movie Review: Good Hair

Good Hair ***
Directed By:
Jeff Stilson.
Written By: Lance Crouther & Chris Rock & Chuck Sklar & Jeff Stilson & Paul Marchand.

Did you know that the chemicals that black women (and Al Sharpton) put in their hair can make a soda can clear in an hour, and completely eat through it in 4? These are cans designed to hold, which they say have so much acid in them, they make a good household cleaner. (I learned later that modern products now use a different chemical, that is less dangerous, but the point still holds – women used to use this chemical on their hair). Did you know that a weave, even a cheap one, costs more than $1,000 – and that’s BEFORE you’ve actually paid for the hair that they will be stitching into your head? If I realized anything while watching the documentary Good Hair, it’s that when my wife goes to the salon for her quarterly styling, and drops $200, I should be thankful that it cost so little!

Chris Rock is at the center of Good Hair, a film he says he wanted to make because his 4 year old daughter asked him why she didn’t have “good hair”. Rock sets out to find out why exactly it is that black women spend so much time and money making their hair do things that it was not meant to do, and what exactly good hair is. His film may start out about hair, but I was surprised by how many different areas it ends up covering.

Rock’s strength as an interviewer are twofold. First, he never really judges his subjects, just makes them feel comfortable and relaxed enough to share with him details that normally, they share with almost no one. Second, he is hilarious. Rock is quick witted, and never misses an opportunity to throw in a barbed one liner, but because he does so with a smile on his face, and perfect delivery, no one gets really offended. They simply laugh along with him.

Rock is certainly not saying that what all these women are doing to their hair is wrong. He simply wants to explore why they feel the need to do it all. Why do black women seem to go out of their way to make their hair do things that it was not naturally meant to do? Well, why does anyone? Trust me, I have a lot of female friends, and have often been the only guy in a roomful of women, and no matter what race they are, women can go on and on and on about their hairstyles, agonizing over the smallest changes they make to it. Men typically pick a haircut early in their life and stick with it until they die or go bald – whichever comes first. But women seem to like to change their hair constantly. Such is life.

Rock is at his best when he veers away from the celebrities and covers something like the Atlanta hair show, where its centre piece if a styling competition between four hair dressers, which is more theater than hair dressing. There is not a lot of hair being cut in this competition, but boy is it ever entertaining. But the single best scene in the movie may come when Rock goes into a barbershop and talks to a group of black men about black women’s hair. The revelations he uncovers there are the type of thing that is rarely discussed.

Of course, there are limits to what you should do with your hair. It is stupid to spend $1,000 on a weave when you don’t have money to spend on food. But then, it’s stupid to spend $1,000 on anything when you don’t have for food in your house – unless of course, it’s food. But the women he talks to in the film – all intelligent and well spoken whether they are actresses, writers, doctors, singers or video vixens – say they do it because it makes them feel better about themselves. This is true of the women who use relaxers, who have weaves or have their “natural” hair. And if you have the money to do, why not? As rapper Ice T says at the very end of the movie women need to do what makes them feel good about their hair because if not “they will make the lives of every fucker around them miserable”. Well said Ice T, well said.

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