Prompted by his daughter Lola asking him, “how come I don’t have good hair?”, Chris Rock journeys into the African American hair industry to find out why that is such a loaded question. Told early on that 12 percent of the population is black but that community buys 80 percent of all hair products, we are brought from the Bronner Brothers Hair Show in Atlanta to India, to weavologists and people having their hair relaxed (with a large degree of pain involved), all to supposedly look beautiful yet homogenous.
From everything I had read before watching the documentary, the general consensus was that this was above average and superficial, but I’m now wondering if they even watched the movie or read the synopsis before reviewing it. Although the subject matter itself seems lightweight, the dimensions it envelops in the concise 96 minute running time. We see Melyssa Ford telling Rock that throughout her youth all she wanted was her white mother’s hair; the effects sodium hydroxide, or more affectionately known as Relaxer, has on eroding metal; a group of high school seniors telling their friend they wouldn’t hire her in later life because her natural hair would damage her credibility; and black men who feel that if the simple fact that they cannot touch their partner’s hair has removed an aspect of intimacy from black relationships.
That Rock manages to address so much in such a small amount of time is admirable, striking a tentative balance between entertaining and relevant. He also manages to bring the barbs and whips of his stand-up routines without losing a mainstream affability and as a result, alienating the viewer. The only major fault I could find with the piece at all is that in trying to highlight his comedic timing and sensibilities and never outwardly shock or offend, the more dramatic and serious elements can be overlooked by the viewer, along with most points being made never getting an answer. The “battle” of the stylists with which the documentary culminates felt perhaps slightly tacked on to that which came before, offering a clearer ending but not fitting in perfectly with everything else.
Despite some concerns and minor flaws, Chris Rock has shown he can actually occasionally attach his name to something worth while and insightful in this wonderfully touching view into an industry I personally knew little about.