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GOOD HAIR (director/writer: Jeff Stilson; screenwriters: Chris Rock/Lance Crouther/Chuck Sklar; cinematographer: Cliff Charles; editors: Paul Marchand /Greg Nash; music: Marcus Miller; cast: Chris Rock, Nia Long, Al Sharpton, Maya Angelou; Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Nelson George/Mr. Rock/Kevin O’Donnell; Roadside Attractions; 2009)
“Superficial doc.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Jeff Stilson (a writer and co-producer on HBO’s “The Chris Rock Show”) directs this superficial doc that asks blacks questions about what makes for good hair for African-American women. Comedian Chris Rock walks us through this affable fluff piece and probably gets the most anyone could get out of such a slight story line. The truths about black femininity get the full treatment by Rock, who acts puzzled about how big a business the black hair salon market has become. Celebrity guests range from elderly poetess Maya Angelou to the activist Reverend Al Sharpton. They both talk frankly about the hair products they use, and the Reverend warns about putting food on the table before buying hair products. White folks who don’t know about creme relaxers (a thick lotion that straightens the natural curls, but contains a fair amount of the potentially harmful chemical of sodium hydroxide that has the capacity to be follicle-damaging) and weavings (costing at least one thousand dollars a pop), might find things informative, while the black community might nod in agreement that good hair most likely means to them straight hair like whitey’s.

The fast-talking Rock visits hair salons, gets his subjects to talk frankly about their hair styling, visits Bronner Bros. Intl. Hair Show–an annual black hair-care convention in Atlanta, and also visits the multi-million dollar black Dudley family’s hair-products empire based in Greensboro, N.C. The film’s highlight is the outrageous hair stylist contest at the Bronner Bros., that features a show pitting four leading stylists of black hair against each other with the winner getting $20,000.

Tour guide Rock wise cracks throughout but never tries to make anything out of the revelation that many of the hair products might not be healthy to use. I found this HBO project far from fresh, lacking in any sociopolitical depth and the eye-rolling one-liner comedy routine (Rock’s usual shtick) got less funny and more tiresome the longer the film kept up its lightweight riff on hair straightening.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”