Good Hair Movie Review: Roots, The Salon Sequel

There’s apparently a huge divide between black men and women, according to Chris Rock, that’s got a lot more to do with just the battle of the sexes. And it’s all about black female high maintenance hair. Channeling Michael Moore as mischievous PG-13 investigative funny guy, Rock turns nomadic comedic commentator while on a serious local and international mission. And going to great lengths, no pun intended, to solve this murky mystery, in Jeff Stilson’s wise and wacky dye-laughing documentary, Good Hair.

Rock first got consumed with the idea of this exploratory quest, when his young daughters dismissed his assurances that they were beautiful. Because they had already been socially indoctrinated with the esteem-zapping notion inherent in black female bad hair blues.

So the distraught dad first seeks insight from some celebrity talking heads. Maya Angelou insists that hair isn’t good or bad, it’s just hair. Unless of course it’s growing between your toes. Then it’s off to a Harlem consultation with ‘the Dali Lama of Relaxer,’ Al Sharpton; annual black hair style fierce beauty bouts down in Atlanta; and locating the dirty little secret of real hair used in extensions over in India. Where locks chopped off women’s heads and dumped at the feet of deities at sacrifical temple altars, are then swiped by the black market and shipped to US inner city salons, after getting clearance as bug-free batches. And wondering if he may be in the wrong business, the enterprising star fills up overflowing ‘tumbleweed’ bags with all natural black hair gathered at ghetto salons, to hawk to wig makers. But nobody seems to be buying that brand.

And while white women tend to fret more about weight and age concerns, Rock learns that black women scoop up nearly eighty percent of hair care concoctions. So he decides to trace pricey processor products to one scene of the crime, a multi-million dollar factory empire in North Carolina, where he comes awfully dangerously close to falling into an enormous vat of hair sludge.

And though Good Hair is enormously entertaining, Rock stumbles into plenty of discoveries that are no laughing matter. Including low income women investing thousands of dollars in wigs and extensions through layaway plans, while others sustain disfiguring burns from straighteners. And the guys grumble in barber shops all around town, about the bank account draining when not sexual turnoff of black women’s cranky off-limits, do not touch hair trespassing policy.

Curiously missing in action from Rock’s movie, is what his absentee wife may think about all this fuss, and if she’s got any hair addiction issues of her own. And those overly long Atlanta crowning glory competition runoffs could have been, well, trimmed a bit. But otherwise Good Hair is simply a gloriously good time.

Roadside Attractions/HBO Films

Rated PG-13

3 1/2 stars

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.