February 24, 2010

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Recently Chris Rock took some time out from his busy schedule of making great standup and mediocre movies to try something different: make a documentary about black women and how they feel about their hair. The trailers all made Good Hair out to be a non stop knee slapper, but anyone who has seen Rocks comedic routines knows that he also has a keen eye for social insight. Does Rock combine his many skills to make a documentary that is both honest and engaging? Hit the jump.

First and foremost, this film succeeds as a comedy. It’s not exactly a laugh a minute thrill ride, buts Rocks wit and social insight remains intact. They are present throughout the film in the form of Rocks narration and in Rocks continually hilarious reaction shots. He treads a fine line as his goofy take aways never cross over into mockery of his subjects, and at a few points we are treated to what appears to be actual, honest reaction. Rocks genuine surprise and shock is even funnier than his constant for the camera mugging (which is never the less damned funny). Rock occasionally is guilty of taking it a bit too far and setting up ridiculous sight gags and situations, which are funny but also slows the pace and take just a little bit away from the films success as a documentary. This is unfortunate, but not a deal breaker, because the film succeeds quite well on this level as well.

Rock structures the film around the Bronner Brothers hair expo, an annual trade show in Atlanta where retailers and manufacturers come to hock their wares. In addition, the expo also hosts a high energy competition that showcases the best and brightest in black hair. Four competitors get the chance to present a fifteen minute floor show, which encompasses hair styling, dance, music and spectacle. Rocks follows the competitors from preparation to performance, a process which keeps the momentum of the film rolling. While Rocks takes many detours (one as far away as India) the action always comes back to the competition.


Along the way Rock interviews many famous faces, including Maya Angelou, All Sharpton, and Ice-T to name just a few. The interviewees are quite funny in their own right, and also provide a great deal of food for thought.

As a white man I can’t say how much this film speaks to the black experience, but the larger theme of how self confidence and self love revolve around self image was universal enough that I was emotionally engaged the whole time, even as I laughed and contemplated. My kinky haired Jewish wife had even more of a personal attachment to the film, as she has also spent much of her life wishing she had “good hair,” and attempting to find the right combination of hair products to give it to her.

Perhaps the highest praise I can give this film is that after the credits rolled, my wife and I spent more time discussing the social questions raised by the film, considering our own issues of self image, and laughing at the jokes.

Sadly, as often seems to be the case with any film I actually like, there are no special features.


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