A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 574 – Barbershop

Barbershop – September 25th, 2011

Oh, I am so full of mixed opinions on this movie. I didn’t buy it and it was purchased after this project got underway. But it was also purchased before we set a hard rule about not purchasing things without getting the explicit approval from each other. The “To Buy” list is exempt, since by its nature it’s all things we both want to get. But anything picked up by one of us needs to be okayed by the other. Andy, however, bought this after we had a general conversation about how while the collection does have a fair amount of drama and a number of foreign films, much of the rest of it is pretty homogeneous. And that was something we were both sort of uncomfortable with. We talked about how we might want to consider buying things that were very clearly not marketed towards 30-something white guys and try to expose ourselves to things outside our own lives but still in the realistic genre, as opposed to fantasy and whatnot. Cause goodness knows my personal experience doesn’t involve any sea monsters, talking lions, vampires or Jedi. And then Andy bought this and Diary of a Mad Black Woman without speaking to me first.

On one hand, I honestly don’t know what I would have picked. It’s been years since I worked in a video store. Currently I work in a children’s library. My knowledge of current movies is fairly limited to things I went to see in the theater, which really disqualifies something from the “not in my wheelhouse” category, or children’s movies. I can tell you what’s coming out based on children’s books! Still, that would definitely fall under “aimed at me” by dint of my profession. So really, what’s my problem here? My problem is that I feel like I have very little right to be reviewing this movie. It is so emphatically not aimed at me and I am so very much not a part of the cultural experience that this movie is based in. What right do I have to critique this? If I say I dislike part of it, how much of that dislike is based on my own ignorance? I am ill-equipped here and very leery of stepping on toes. I’m sure I will and I apologize in advance and will try my best not to tread too heavily.

All that being said, I hated the first half hour or so of this movie. And I feel no qualms about stating that. I hated it and I hated it for a very particular reason. And that reason is that an enormous amount of the comedy in the beginning of the movie is of the “aren’t women crazy sex objects?” variety. I honestly don’t care why that’s a thing. All I know is that for the first half of the movie, the only woman treated with any respect is the main character’s wife. That’s it. And you know what that is? Tiresome. Frustrating. Irritating. It gets better later on, once the main plot starts coming to a head, thank goodness, but the beginning of the movie has a series of “look how insane women get! So wild and crazy! And look at their asses! Women are crazy and will beat up your car! Or you! But they have great asses!” I don’t care who’s saying it. I don’t want to hear that. It’s weak humor at best.

Fortunately for this movie’s sake (as well as my marriage’s) it does get better as the plot goes on. It’s largely a comedy, but with a serious core that’s three quarters Empire Records and one quarter It’s A Wonderful Life, strictly speaking plotwise. Calvin Palmer is a barber who’s inherited a barbershop from his father, who inherited it from his father. And Calvin is struggling to make ends meet. The barbershop does do some business, but Calvin has started to see it as a bit of a financial vacuum, with people coming in just to hang out and folks asking for free haircuts. He wants to provide something more than what he’s got for his wife and the baby she’s going to be having soon. So he’s had scheme after scheme to make more money. And when a local businessman, Lester Wallace, offers to buy the barbershop from Calvin for twenty thousand dollars, Calvin seriously considers it. Of course, when he does take Wallace up on his offer there’s a catch and it looks like the barbershop will end up being closed and reopened as a “gentleman’s club” called “The Barbershop.” Calvin looks around at the community his barbershop is in and realizes the importance it has for people in the area and then has to find a way to get it back from Wallace.

Meanwhile, a couple of guys have smashed into a nearby convenience store and stolen the store’s new ATM, hoping to crack it open for the cash inside. This is the comic relief. Now, there’s also comedy going on in the barbershop, which is where the vast majority of the movie takes place, but it’s very talky comedy. The ATM plot is almost all slapstick. And I can appreciate that. Of course, as soon as someone mentions that ATMs can often be turned in for rewards worth more than the ATM would have in it, I knew where that was headed. Or I suspected, because up until the very end the two plots don’t seem at all connected, aside from the local police eyeing one of the barbers in the barbershop because he’s done time in jail before.

Now, I say it’s a cross between Empire Records and It’s a Wonderful Life for two reasons. One, it’s about someone trying to save a business that has more than financial meaning to a community that needs it. Two, it’s got a focus on the owner of the business realizing not only that his business is important to the community, but that he himself is important to the community. And I’m a sucker for that sort of story so I’m on board there. I do think that the whole thing with Wallace and the cash happens very quickly, forcing Calvin’s change of heart to happen even quicker. And that’s too bad, because it’s a good story and I genuinely like Ice Cube as Calvin. If, say, the sale had already happened and he’d spent the money on things for the baby, like setting up a nursery in the apartment or something, there would be more dramatic tension there. Having him take all the money right back an hour later and be told “No, now you owe me double that, by 7:00” isn’t precisely unrealistic for a loan shark, but with no legally binding contract and one enforcing heavy shown on screen? That just doesn’t make me feel like there was as much of a threat until the very end, and by then the conclusion is only a few minutes away.

I did like the side plot with the barbershop’s one female barber, Terri, and her eventual rejection of her scumbag cheater of a boyfriend. It doesn’t quite make up for the whole apple juice rant at the beginning, but it definitely helps the end. All the little plots end up tying together rather well, even if it does happen much faster than I’d like. I’m still not thrilled with the beginning. I found it unpleasant to watch. But I didn’t hate it by the end, thanks to a solidly developing story and some good performances. I doubt I’ll end up watching the movie again, but I don’t regret owning it as much as I did fifteen minutes into it.

September 25, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment

Barbershop

September 25, 2011

Barbershop

I bought this movie specifically because I wanted to have some things in my collection to broaden my horizons. I had customers and employees in my store at Blockbuster who adored this movie. They couldn’t stop laughing about the hood with all the clearly stolen merchandise that he kept coming into the barbershop to sell. They couldn’t stop talking about Cedric the Entertainer’s character Eddie and how irreverent and hilarious he was. Of course I realised that this movie was not made for me – I’m a privaleged white guy and this is a movie about the Chicago ghetto. This movie depicts a culture I cannot claim to be at all familiar with, but that was kind of the point when I bought it.

As we started to watch the movie tonight Amanda said “So this is Empire Records but for a different audience?” Yeah, she pretty much hit the nail on the head there. It’s a day in the life of a group of misfits and colorful characters who work together in a simple old-fashioned Barbershop that is in danger of being closed. We get to see them fight and make up and realize just how much they appreciate each other and ultimately how essential the barbershop is to the community and themselves.

Ice Cube plays Calvin, the lead character who works every day trying to make ends meet at the barbershop left to him by his father. It’s a community hang-out for all sorts of folks from the neighbourhood, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it makes any money. We see that Calvin’s father was an old softy who used to give free haircuts all the time and who gave jobs in his shop to all kinds of reprobates who wanted just to better themselves. Calvin feels trapped in the shop though and wants to do something on his own – maybe open a recording studio. The result is that he makes an ill-advised choice to sell the shop to a local scumbag and loan shark, and only afterwards does he realize what a mistake he’s made. For the most part the rest of the movie is Calvin trying to find a way to keep the shop as we see just what a wonderful place it is and how much it needs to be preserved.

I actually rented this before I bought it. I watched it alone one afternoon because I knew Amanda had no interest in seeing it, and I really enjoyed it. The whole “must save the collection of misfits” plot is as fun and compelling here as it was in Empire Records. The characters themselves, broadly written caricatures though they may be, are great fun to watch. There are a lot of genuine laughs in this movie that even an outsider like myself can’t help but enjoy. Those things my co-workers and customers raved about? Yeah, they’re hilarious. The guy who keeps coming into the store with more and more ludicrous things to fence? He’s great. He has a store tag dangling from his hat. At one point he comes in with a pair of dogs to sell, and at another he comes in with a satellite dish in his hand. I can kind of imagine the prop department trying to think of the strangest things they could give him for his next appearance.

Then there’s Cedric the Entertainer. Ice Cube may be the star of the movie but it’s Cedric that stole the show. His curmudgeonly old barber Eddie has most of the best moments with his stand up routines about the civil rights movement and his outrageous opinions about absolutely everything. The best thing about his rants is that you feel slightly embarrassed for laughing at them. Director Tim Story does an expert job of providing just the right amount of disbelief from the other inhabitants of the shop. This movie is absolutely packed with great reaction shots and snappy comebacks to make the comedy come to life.

I also hate to admit how much I laughed during my first viewing at the over-the-top slapstick of Anthony Anderson as the comic relief who has stolen an ATM machine but can’t figure out how to get it open. There’s one particular moment, when he’s trying to get it down a flight of stairs and a big man in a red sweatshirt is trying to come the other way that still cracks me up. It’s stupid broad slapstick humor, but it still funny.

I genuinely enjoy this movie. I know that Amanda objected a lot to the way it treats many of the women in the beginning of the movie, and it does have a disturbing tendency to focus on their asses which is fairly uncomfortable, but for the most part I find this an enjoyable film full of fun characters and with some absolutely shockingly funny monologues. I hope it doesn’t come off as condescending that I view this movie as somewhat like a foreign film in regards to how I view it. It shows me a culture that I am not in any way a part of, and it treats that culture for the most part in a positive light. An argument could even be made that some of the slang being used might qualify it as a foreign language to me. It just doesn’t have subtitles. I honestly do feel that I need more movies like this one in my collection.

September 25, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , | Leave a comment