VOD Review - Mansome

Pro-wrestler Shawn Daivari in "Mansome"
It's ironic that I saw this comedy documentary on the Memorial Day weekend that Netflix premiered the 4th season of Arrested Development. It's ironic because the two stars of Arrested Development also star in this documentary. Jason Bateman and Will Arnett play rival siblings on the resurrected television series.

Director Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) is a bit of a master of doing comedy documentaries, which aren't mockumentaries but actual non-fiction films that use humor as a tactic or as an overriding tone. Spurlock's topics haven't always been so lighthearted, but Mansome might be his most fluffy. The movie's topic is essentially male body hair and male facial hair.

Bateman and Arnett spend the day at a spa in Los Angeles called Spaluce where they are pampered. As they get the spa treatment, Spurlock splices in sequences that address various aspects of male grooming. There are in fact seven aspects, which appear on title cards: the Moustache, the Beard, the Products, the Body, the Hair, the Face and the Man. The seven sequences feature men from all over the country offering their opinions, including certain celebrity comedians like John Waters, Judd Apatow and Zach Galifianakis. Those sequences do settle and focus on one man whom Spurlock's cameras follow and get to know.

At its core, Spurlock is trying to get at what is masculinity, which in the 21st century is an antiquated idea. Historically and culturally, masculinity used to be defined as one, singular thing or a series of traits that indicated without question what it is. A lot of people, if not most, still subscribe to those traits, but in a post-Sexual Revolution, post-feminism and post-gay rights world, I, like many others, no longer subscribe. I would go even further and suggest that there is no such thing as masculinity any more.

Filmmaker Christopher Hines made a documentary a few years ago called The Butch Factor (2009), which was about masculinity within the gay community. He grossly ignores the lesbian population, but one can watch Hines' movie and get a sense of the heart to which Mansome all boils down. The male aesthetic has become all about self-esteem, cultural assimilation, comfort, courtship and consumerism.

Ricky Manchanda getting eyebrows trimmed
in "Mansome"
At the end of the day, people decide to shave the hair that grows wherever on their bodies or they don't. It doesn't mean you're any less of a man if you shave all your hair off or if you don't. Yes, society demands hair or no hair in certain circles, and often those circles are surprising in their demands, but ultimately it doesn't matter.

Spurlock profiles two very interesting men who are diverse in their origins but who feel the need to conform to the hairless American ideal. They're men of color. One is a pro-wrestler named Shawn Daivari. The other is Ricky Manchanda. Both come from Middle Eastern backgrounds. Spurlock also profiles Jack Passion, a Caucasian American who feels the need to conform to the hirsute foreign ideal. Passion flies to Europe where he says people appreciate his hair decisions. Watching these men are fun and funny. Spurlock isn't trying to psychoanalyze these men or the men of America. It's all meant to be light and it is.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for language and some crude material.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 22 mins.


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