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The House Next Door: "The Wizened Sympathy of Good Hair"


Good Hair is a weird movie and if I had to compare it to anything I’ve seen as of late, it’d be The September Issue, just in being endlessly fascinating but not really sure what it’s trying to be. That said, a doc by Chris Rock about weaves that wedges in all kinds smart insight and a bunch of humanism is more than alright. You’ll love it when you watch it, you’ll kinda stop and be like “Waitaminute that could’ve done a lot more” when it ends and then, you realize Rock would probably cop to that anyways.

And still, Good Hair succeeds in not giving-in to any of the awful trends of snarky, stunt docs of the ‘aughts–it isn’t condescending and it isn’t sanctimonious and all serious and shit, either. Anyways, head over to The House Next Door to read my review of Good Hair:

Chris Rock is a comedian, not a documentarian. The success of Good Hair and it’s need-to-be-noted but ultimately irrelevant failures hinge on never forgetting this rather obvious fact. What that means is the movie indulges in being funny first and foremost, pretty much always at the expense of any excoriation.

Good Hair’s kinda conceit came from Rock’s two daughters, one of whom asked him why she didn’t have “good hair.” The set-up suggests that we’ll explore why his daughter thinks of her hair as, um, not good, but the movie actually does little of that. Instead it simply traces the ways “good hair” is attained and sorta holds the whole thing together via a twice-a-year, for-a-prize-of-20k hair-styling contest, which is so low-rent and absurd that Rock wisely steps back and quietly grins and primarily sympathizes with the competitors’ unimposing goals.

This sympathy makes the movie, but it’s a strange choice for a comedian and it’s out-of-step with the perspective of most humorous, politically-minded, star-driven documentaries. Rock’s not Sacha Baron-Cohen or Michael Moore here; he’s more a shticky Errol Morris or a hammy Werner Herzog, fascinated and moved by his subject to the point that the movie’s quality suffers even as its joshing humanity expands. Folksy jibing and absurd jokes always come first, but that doesn’t mean Good Hair doesn’t meander around some really interesting details, make some really good points, and stick itself out there. It’s neither snarky nor entirely understanding of the phenomenon and sub-phenomenons (hair relaxer, weaves, hair-stylist sub-culture, etc) surrounding “good hair.”

Written by Brandon

November 2nd, 2009 at 7:07 am

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