Review: Mansome (2012)
Editor’s Notes: Mansome opened in select cities on 5/18.
Documentaries are always vitally dependent upon the results the documentarians were able to capture. Mansome sets out to achieve semi-profound points but ends up proffering only limp, self-serving chatter. There is a valid idea behind this film, which ponders the implications of masculinity by dissecting male grooming. But more often than not the film descends into the kind of fringe curiosity that it is trying to lampoon.
Morgan Spurlock, indie doc rock star, directed the film, but don’t let that confuse you – virtually all remnants of style and substance we’ve come to expect from A Morgan Spurlock Film are absent. Mansome is not one of the director’s rollicking, high-concept experiments, but rather a fairly standard talking-head doc in which a bunch of funny celebs provide surface-level riffs on a subject that deserves sharper insight.
Morgan Spurlock, indie doc rock star, directed the film, but don’t let that confuse you – virtually all remnants of style and substance we’ve come to expect from A Morgan Spurlock Film are absent.
Masculinity is one of the most profoundly perplexing and contradictory of all human traits. The world’s evolving – or devolving – notions of what it means to “be a man” help define the tone of the culture at large. Just as women are inundated minute-by-minute with both implicit and explicit messages on how to be “hot” or “desirable” and therefore worthy of their place in the uncompromising environs of our Raunch Culture, men are pressured to conform to a shifting set of standards as well. “Being a man” encompasses a tenuous combination of strength and sensitivity, brutish power and grown-up vulnerability. One of the defining representations of masculinity is hair – more to the point, the presentation of hair, be it on the face, chest, arms, legs, back…or other regions. Male grooming has come to the forefront of male identity in recent years, as the rise of the metrosexual has formed various factions of men – the shorn versus the scruffy.
The film is basically an 84-minute sounding board in which dudes wax comedic on the subject of masculinity through the body hair lens. A small handful of the interviewees – like sociologist and author Michael Kimmel, offer legitimate insights that deepen our understanding of the masculine quandary. Others, like the majority of the movie’s celebrity “experts,” are more disingenuous, offering little more than variations on their usual shtick. Paul Rudd and Judd Apatow veer close to seriousness before returning to their comfort zone. Zach Galifianakis and Adam Carolla unveil – intentionally or unintentionally, I’m not sure which – their true perspective through the tone of their jokes (for the record, Galifianakis comes off sweet and self-deprecating, while Carolla basically seems like a total pig). In between, there are short portraits of various grooming-centered fringe enthusiasts – a competitive “beardsman,” an insecure metrosexual, the inventor of a product titled “Fresh Balls” – who give a tangible face to the film’s ponderances, but they are treated mostly as sideshow freaks, and we are invited to snicker along with the film.
The film is basically an 84-minute sounding board in which dudes wax comedic on the subject of masculinity through the body hair lens. A small handful of the interviewees – like sociologist and author Michael Kimmel, offer legitimate insights that deepen our understanding of the masculine quandary.
Spurlock is a very insightful guy, but he is always at his best when he makes his work personal. He does so briefly, at film’s beginning, when he discusses the decision to shave his signature “porn star ‘stache” for charity. Not only has the look become a crutch Spurlock dreads removing, the eventual bare-lipped Spurlock literally brings his young son to tears. No wonder he has since grown the monster back.. This early sequence represents all that’s great about Spurlock’s work – deeply confessional in nature, delivered with humor and insight. The remainder of the film, lacking its maker’s charisma and sense of purpose, meanders aimlessly from one episode to the other, building to nothing and completely failing to impact anyone’s pre-existing notions of masculinity in an ever-changing world.