- Rated PG-13
All photos © Paladin
Reviewed by Ezra Stead
f you've never heard of a beard competition, or if you've ever wondered exactly what “eyebrow threading” is, Morgan Spurlock has made a documentary for you. However, if you want an in-depth analysis of the cultural forces behind male grooming practices and the social impact of these changing pressures, some more research might be required. Spurlock's film, “Mansome,” is a lighthearted and entertaining, but ultimately inconsequential look at masculine identity as seen through the varied grooming habits of the modern male.
“Mansome”features running commentary from noted comedic personalities such as Zach Galifianakis, Adam Carolla, Judd Apatow and the film's executive producers, Will Arnett and Jason Bateman, intermingled with “man on the street” interviews with various non-famous (and largely unidentified) people both male and female. It also takes a closer look at unusual men like Jack Passion, who makes his living primarily off his huge, waist-length beard, traveling around the world to compete in (and generally win) beard competitions, where contestants are judged in categories such as “partial beard,” “full beard, groomed” and “full beard, natural.”
On the other end of the spectrum, the documentary also looks at the phenomenon of the “metrosexual,” roughly defined as a heterosexual man who spends more time and energy on his appearance than most gay men or women. This idea is personified by Ricky Manchanda, a fashion CEO who says that his looks have become his main hobby. Other than a little bit of background on the historical tradition of male ornamentation, from European kings to tribesmen in Africa, this is where the film offers its best stab at social relevance. Manchanda is a Sikh who felt ridiculed and ostracized in his American high school experience because of the traditional clothing and headwear dictated by his religion. Since then, he has been actively pursuing a radically different look for himself, which involves manicures, makeup and, of course, eyebrow threading, which he employs to remove “three or four hairs” in order to give his brows more of an arch (I couldn't tell the difference).
Much of “Mansome’s” entertainment value comes from its differing viewpoints; the section on Manchanda, for example, is intercut with Carolla talking about the ridiculousness of a man spending so much time and energy on his appearance. However, unlike Chris Rock's similar but superior documentary, “Good Hair,” it never really gets very far under the surface of exploring the modern male identity. Its comedic tone serves it well, but its true insights are few and too often brushed aside in favor of a tongue-in-cheek joke. Despite the presence of real sociological experts such as gender studies scholar and author Michael Kimmel, its wisdom is largely common sense stuff, like the idea that our grooming habits evolved from our primitive need to attract a mate. While “Mansome” is an amusing and enjoyable film, its worth as a social document is slight.