Directed by: Jeff Stilson
Cast: Chris Rock
Running Time: 1 hr, 35 mins
Release Date: October 9, 2009
PLOT: A laugh-laden documentary about the perils African-American women go through to attain the “good hair” we’ve grown accustomed to seeing them proudly showcase. Chris Rock narrates the story behind the mesmerizing, intricate art-form so many hair stylists have tackled with a slew of mixed results.
WHO’S IT FOR? Certainly not for the faint of heart. Anyone who often wonders how long it takes black women to create their daily look. Most of us take for granted how little time we spend readying ourselves for the day. Black women (and some men, like Al Sharpton) dedicate anything from a six hour barber-visit, to a string of paychecks to achieving the tousled look we see them don in public.
EXPECTATIONS: Chris Rock may be the world’s funniest stand-up comic. Though his cinematic endevaors have largely been hit-or-miss, this is the real thing. I fully expected to be assaulted with a one-liner-laden investigation from the man himself.
Chris Rock as Himself: Carrying the weight of a film is a big deal. Hollywood caters to a fickle audience. We need to see actors move mountains before we’ll assure them financial/critical cinematic success. Rock is the natural choice for this role. As the proud father of two young girls, he meanders the country for answers regarding what his young daughters may one day subject themselves to in order to achieve “good hair.” While this goal proves to be far more elusive than he could have possibly imagined, you believe his horror when he finds out how dangerous the process actually is. All the while, you get a hilarious depiction of a journey into the unknown, and Rock more than holds his ground as your host. He goes far and wide, interviewing local barbers, famous musicians (even Ice T!), and hair-product manufacturers in order to attain the information that makes Good Hair such a revealing portrait of a subculture that would do ANYTHING to look good.
TALKING: Rock’s joke-a-second banter wows you. He has an uncanny ability to make people of all races laugh equally, despite speaking from a black-centric perspective. There’s one scene in-particular where he refers to a Chinese woman as Korean, and vice versa. His sincere embarrassment, and instinct to bring these women in for a hug/apology garners sympathy rather than resentment. Only Rock could win someone over after misidentifying their race.
SIGHTS: Wow. You really have to be one your game to properly assist in the follicular-focused beautification of black people. Rock doesn’t leave any destination out in his journey, and we are introduced to an assembly line of carnage as we visually are subjected to the horrific hardships gone through in order to acquire a respectable coif. Burn marks. Loss of hair. Permanent neurological damage from the fumes. You name it. Hardly believable, but totally for real. I couldn’t believe I actually had to look away at times.
SOUNDS: Truth. With a pure, honest blend of obscure and popular hip-hop artists providing a fitting soundtrack, Rock emcees an arsneal of conversational brilliance that brings people (in the audience, and onscreen) in, and this enhances the experience ten-fold.
BEST SCENE: Rock’s converstations with the more famous subjects are strikingly revealing, but it’s his momennts with Rev. Al Sharpton that really opens your eyes. Apparently, in order to get congress to pass Martin Luther King Day into effect, Sharpton took some fashion tips from James Brown in order to sway the vote. It’s worth seeing for so many reasons, this being the most hilariously poignant.
ENDING: Rock draws his own conclusions regarding what women go through for their own beautification, and the film winds up being a psuedo-warning to his young girls to go “natural” rather than ordering an Indian woman’s hair and parading around with it on their heads. I’m not sure how many black woman would agree with his message, but Rock delivers it in such a way that nobody could really feel insulted by his plight to disallow such beautification methods.
QUESTIONS: Of all the places I’d want permanent burn marks, my scalp may as well be the best place. The hair would just grow back, right? Not necessarily.
REWATCHABILITY: Yes. A must for DVD/Blu-Ray collectors. It’s like Dogtown & Z-Boys for barbers. Rock’s presence ensures a captivating experience, though you may miss some of his brilliant comical introspection’s the first time you see it. Why? You may become too nauseous to laugh.
Chris Rock is one of those rare Hollywood commodities that always delivers when it’s him just talking to the audience. He brings a steady arsenal of honesty to the table. Good Hair is a film full of unflattering moments, and Rock does his best to find the beauty in the process. The lengths black women go to for their hair not only empties their pockets, but also may empty their heads of their OWN hair. It’s an uncannily scary process, and this film skillfully explains why it’s such a big deal in the first place. There’s even a stylist “cut off” near the film’s conclusion that showcases how seriously this procedure is taken, and you wont believe your eyes. Remember the hip-hip act Salt’n’Peppa? Of course you do. They had several hits in the early 90s. Nice bunch of ladies. Now, remember that “halfsies hairstyle” they donned in one of their video for “Push it?” Yeah, that wasn’t intentional. This was due to a “hair relaxer malfunction.” How could you possibly not be interested in seeing this, now?
FINAL SCORE: 8/10