Time Out New York Project: Issue #732, October 8-14, 2009
Dir. Jeff Stilson. 2009. PG-13. 95mins. Documentary.
Good Hair is a slipshod doc about a fascinating subject: the loaded history and current complications of African-American hairstyling. The film is especially powerful in how it offhandedly shows certain races fomenting and exploiting the desires of others—these range from the obvious (the Caucasian-manufactured longing among black women to look more white) to the illuminating (the majority of black hair products are processed and sold by Koreans).
Yet our tour guide through this sociopolitical miasma, Chris Rock, merely sees it as an opportunity to crack wise. It doesn’t matter if Rock is in a Harlem barbershop or an Indian hair-weave factory—there’s always a punch line or a snooty eye-roll to be had. The comedian’s shtick has rarely felt so stale and desperate, so disconnected from the very real cultural quandaries he and director Jeff Stilson uncover. They structure the film as if it were a cousin to Rocky, slowly building up to a competitive bit of tomfoolery at the Bronner Bros. International Hair Show. Cut-’em-down quips at the ready, Rock blithely parades through talking-head interviews with everyone from Salt-N-Pepa to the Rev. Al Sharpton. The latter at least has a good story about how Martin Luther King Day came about; let’s just say it involves James Brown and a lot of relaxer.—Keith Uhlich