ISSUE 126: GOOD HAIR
GOOD HAIR, Dir. Jeff Stilson
CHRIS ROCK ENTERTAINMENT/HBO FILMS/ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS
Opening: Oct. 9, 2009
Chris Rock's Good Hair provides such a new national seat at the table of beauty that to analyze it on only one level would be completely remiss. Thus, let's pull off wig.
Written by Chris Rock, Jeff Stilson, Lance Crouther and Chuck Sklar, Good Hair was produced by Nelson George, Rock and Kevin O‟Donnell.
First on the cinematic level, do not look for any breakthroughs here. Good Hair looks like it can't decide whether it wants to be a renegade, gritty docu or a more theatrical piece. The film straddles between the two and sometimes distracts from the actual message and topic. Good Hair is not necessarily cohesive as one may want offering the more seamless driving intention of, say, The September Issue that the viewer is craving. It seems this might be due in part to the level of expertise in this particular realm from the key producers and the director, Jeff Stilson, a TV comedy writer/producer.
The editing can be a bit jarring at times. The juxtaposition between the antics of the Bronner Bros. annual hair show and celebrity views just doesn't always flow smoothly. It's such an intriguing topic that it really needs more of a true center, an anchor. What, one asks, is our exact journey's goal here and why? However, one cannot help but state that there are some extremely funny, funny scenes in this film which Rock's natural comedic genius seems to coax out of the subjects--not to mention that some of these stylists need not much coaxing! There is a no holds-barred approach, which is refreshing, yet unfortunately at times, one-sided. When dealing with such a psycho-social issue, a documentary such as this almost begs for input from the usual suspects such as Dr. Cornel West and others. There is not the deep introspection that the viewer yearns for aside from Rock's analysis (which, fine for the film, but becomes truly troubling particularly when watching him on the rounds of the late-night talks shows where he proclaims that Black women are doing this in all to "look White." Not having any formal training or study in the true psychological drive behind all this, it is a dangerous stance that he takes and should be pointed out by his management. Given so little has been discussed about the topic (and maybe the only exposure that perhaps the White Leno viewer might get), caution is the way here.)
The film is also a bit dated because all true hair fiends know that salons from L.A. to New York to Paris are on the "healthy" hair movement and encouraging their clients to go the flat iron/straightening comb root from relaxer. Also, with the explosion of lace wigs, there was nary (a nod to that market trend!)
And for all the beautiful, upscale Black hair care salons that stylists have sacrificed to create; Why oh why didn't we get to see any of those? But kudos to Andre Harrell for his curiosity on "White" hair, but it is unfortunate that it wasn't explained further. Gwyneth's former extensions, Sarah Jessica Parker's exaggerated ones, Jessica Simpson and Paris Hilton's clip-ins, Victoria Beckhams flatiron obsession also point to something interesting as well: and it would hardly mean that they want to be White--if you haven't noticed, they are. This is more about playing with appearance, defining what feels sexual and feminine to an individual and being able to take control of it proudly.
The film misses the fact that changing hair texture or length - similar to dying one's hair, changing nail color or wearing stilettos is not necessarily a form of self-hatred but perhaps self-expression. Not necessarily a barrier to intimacy but rather part of the process to get to intimacy. But then, if there were any seasoned women of note asked to be producers on Good Hair, we may not have the product we have. Which brings us to the final point: The lawsuit. This cannot help but cloud Rock's "innovative" film a bit. Inquiring minds want to know if this is actually true? (Full disclosure: the writer frequents Regina Kimbel's salon when in LA yet had no knowledge of this until the digital reports earlier this week). We will, naturally, leave this for the court's to decide; but what would it ultimately mean if the concept were stolen? Paraphrasing Al Sharpton's comments in the film: if Black women can't even control the images about their own hair and profit from those images, then we are wearing our gender oppression daily.
All in all, a must-see so that you can take part in the national conversation on this from having actually seen the film yourself. RATING: B+. --The A-List