Morgan Spurlock tries hard to keep his documentary on men’s grooming habits lively, but Mansome is only fitfully amusing and doesn’t have anything really interesting to say. Two of the movie’s executive producers, actors Will Arnett and Jason Bateman, lend their talents (and commercial appeal) by appearing in a framing story that follows the comedic duo as they offer commentary and banter with each other while receiving various treatments at a Los Angeles spa. The movie’s other talking heads include Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief Kate White, director Judd Apatow, Adam Carolla, Zach Galifianakis, as the anti-groomer, and a genuinely funny Paul Rudd. A very droll John Waters, whose appearance is all too brief, promises that when he eventually shaves off his pencil-thin moustache, he’ll do it as part of a final performance on stage before retirement.
As in Super Size Me, Spurlock offers himself as a subject, though on this occasion it’s during a single interlude in which he shaves off his signature facial hair. But its only effect, it seems, is to upset his young son to the point of tears. Mansome is a mixed bag of unstructured episodes focusing on how males pursue their notion of manliness. The documentary follows the “beardsman” Jack Passion, whose prominent facial tresses garner him first place at a beard and moustache championship in Germany. Passion’s sole purpose in life, apparently, is to “express his manhair” by competing around the world in the Natural Full Beard category. In another episode, pro-wrestler Shawn Daivari eagerly shares with us the full-body hair-trimming ritual that he constantly has to put himself through in preparation for his theatrical wrestling performances.
One is never sure if Spurlock just wants to make fun of his subject matter or whether he has any serious intention of examining the phenomenon of manscaping. The sociological commentary and historical perspectives are superficial at best and the targets often too easy. We observe a session with a focus group that assesses Fresh Balls, a new product designed for men’s groins. (Tag line for the product: “You brush your teeth and then put on your Fresh Balls.”) There’s a sequence in which an old-school Italian immigrant barber demonstrates how toupees have improved over the years, which becomes quite touching as he tends to the grooming needs of his oldest friend and regular customer. Thirtysomething clothing buyer Ricky Manchanda is initially interesting as he tells us about his outsider status as a Sikh child growing up in America, but now that he’s dispensed with his turban and become a metrosexual, he begins to tediously share with us his obsession with improving his looks. Eventually, after we’ve followed Manchanda from salon to salon as he tries to fix barely existent flaws, the narcissism of the subject and the aimlessness of Mansome has completely worn you down.
The Tribeca Film Festival runs from April 18—29. For more information click here.