Appearance is everything. It is a means to an end – though nowadays said means and said end are one in the same. More and more people are idolized for no other reason than having a glamorous fashion sense and lifestyle. Inspired by a sadly naïve question from his young daughter, “Daddy, why don’t I have good hair?”, actor and comedian Chris Rock journeys around the world exploring the facets of the niche market of African-American hair. Through Rock the audience is granted an interactive education of chemical relaxers, weaves and extensions, and styling while various celebrities from Maya Angelou to Nia Long weigh in with their own lessons, experiences, and philosophies on black hair.
There’s so much going for this movie from its subject spectrum to its insight but it would all be for nothing without Rock’s candor. The film’s opening act has the unfailingly upbeat narrator investigate chemical relaxers, or more specifically sodium hydroxide, from how they’re made to their usage and the potential damage they can cause. Rock turns what would have undoubtedly been a humdrum visit to a relaxer manufacturer plant into a hilarious scene filled with punchy one-liners. He even manages to keep up the lightness when witnessing how the relaxer, what people put in their hair and on their skin, completely disintegrates aluminum can. Soon the film moves on to the weave industry and its complicated process of collecting, processing, selling, and applying hair from one person to another. Apparently a good weave, made of authentic human hair can run a person thousands of dollars; one of the more delightful scenes in the film happens here when Rock visits men at a barber shop and discuss with them how paying for the weave of their significant other can really burn a hole in your pocket. Rock also goes on a trip to India where hair is collected from temples where women shave their heads during religious ceremonies. He makes the best of the situation at his own expense, riding on a shoddy wooden donkey cart or attempting to joke with people who barely speak English. Throughout the film Rock revisits the central story, which is also the finale of the movie, as he interviews various stylists as they prepare for the Bonner Brothers International Hair Show in Atlanta where competitors must create a showpiece around styling hair. It’s delightfully outrageous.
There’s nothing not to love about this movie. From the investigative and scientific moments that flesh out the narrative to the sharp anecdotal moments that ground it in reality, this is the best education-based documentary anyone has made in years. With the comedic prowess of Chris Rock always there to guide you through the discomfort, encourage in moments of humor, and to guard you against antipathy, Good Hair is just as impressive as any if not all other comedy one might see any given day at the theater. Most impressive of all though is that despite the indecision surrounding black hairstyles, from wearing it in a natural afro to making it Farrah-Fawcett-esque, the culmination of the film with the extravagant hair show inspires a kind of cultural power as all of the stylists prove that black people can wear their hair however the hell they want and love.