I know very little about hair. I'm a guy who wakes up, showers and lets it do what it wants. I could really care less about how my hair looks and the only things that go in it are shampoo and water. The subject of hair does not interest me, but nevertheless, I have seen some great pieces of entertainment that probe our infatuation with it. Good Hair, a new documentary from comedian Chris Rock, is not one of those.
The movie focuses solely on African American hair and why a vast number of black women deem it necessary to buy weaves and use hair products like relaxers (which are filled with sodium hydroxide and can actually dissolve through the skin), but it doesn't effectively delve into their fascination with hair. The hit Showtime show, Penn & Teller: Bullshit! accomplished more in its 30 minute exploration than the entirety of Good Hair. That episode really spoke to what was wrong with our culture and the way we think of hair. This movie doesn't really make much of a point at all. Go watch that episode instead and save yourself an hour.
If you choose to not heed my warning, you will see the movie throw out data without backing it up or explaining why it is important. Through various interviews, we are told that the "black hair business" is a nine billion dollar industry and that African Americans consume 80% of hair products, despite only making up about 20% of the population. That's a great statistic, but what are the implications of it (outside of the obvious notion that African Americans buy a lot of hair products)? Why is it this way? Is it our culture? What has caused the black community to shun their own hair and embrace others?
At one point in the movie, Rock asks a little three year old girl whether or not he should let his daughter of the same age get a perm. She tells him he should because, "Everybody is supposed to." This one line gets to the core of what this documentary should have been about. It seems that younger and younger children are getting the idea that they must do these types of things to fit in and look "normal," but at what cost? How are these children going to be affected? What is causing them to think this way? This little girl offered up the hardest hitting line in the entire movie that really tapped into the societal obsession with hair, perfectly laying the foundation for further exploration into the topic, but that opportunity is squandered.
The film culminates into a hair stylist battle in Atlanta, Georgia where four stylists go head to head in a flashy competition to see who will take home the grand prize, a hefty chunk of cash. As it turns out, the show isn't really about the hair styling; they actually cut very little hair. It's about the theatrics of it all, which, if anything, makes a valid connection to what the rest of the documentary ignored: it's not about being skillful and excelling in a particular area. It's all about looking good. That is the poor message we are sending and this finale properly defines it, but by this point, it was too little, too late.
Chris Rock, though undeniably funny, is not a good host in Good Hair. Instead of probing his subjects further to get to some deep rooted belief like the best documentarians do, he ends up standing around aimlessly cracking jokes that really aren't that amusing. The only truly humorous part in the entire thing is when he tries to sell "black hair" by taking it around to various sellers who explain that nobody wants that type. They want something else, allowing Rock to assert that it is only African Americans who seem to be unhappy with what is on their heads. Although a valid point, it doesn't go much further than that, making it a documentary that isn't worth it's weight in hair.
Good Hair receives 2/5