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 | , ,

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