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Rock Goes to Great Lengths in ‘Good Hair’

The price of beauty — and its maintenance — has never come cheap.
But in Good Hair, comedian Chris Rock delves into the roots of the problem and reveals that good hair is a much bigger business than many imagine.

Rock is not only funny, he's an affable and intelligent host in a documentary that is accessible, breezy and highly informative.

When his adorable 5-year-old daughter asked why she didn't have "good hair," Rock was moved to explore what makes hair appealing.

He talks to hairdressers and their customers and learns about the exorbitant price (at least $1,000), time commitment (about six hours) and pain (hair loss, scalp burns) involved in acquiring a weave. He also finds out about harsh chemicals used in hair relaxing and meets an entrepreneur whose wealth derives from the manufacture and sale of creams that relax waves, curls and frizz. In a very funny and troubling bit, a chemist conducts a simple experiment that reveals just how caustic the hair-relaxing potions can be.

One of the film's most intriguing segments centers on the donors of a majority of the lustrous hair used for weaves and wigs. Rock travels to India and finds that much of the coveted "good hair" sold in the USA comes from the heads of devout Hindu women. They shave their heads in a religious ceremony and an opportunistic businessman scoops it up and exports it for sale at high prices. It's an unsettling discovery: unscrupulous businesspeople profiting from the religious fervor of the poor.

Rock goes to Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York and India, talking to everyone from the Rev. Al Sharpton to poet Maya Angelou to actress Raven-Symoné. Singers Salt N' Pepa recount how a hair-relaxing accident led to a signature hairstyle. Actress Tracie Thoms describes her natural hairstyle as being almost transgressive. Sharpton notes how the companies serving an African-American population should be black-owned, but few are.

A segment featuring an elaborate hairdressing competition is not as eye-opening as the rest of the film and goes on too long.

Good Hair seamlessly follows Rock as he travels from manufacturing plants to salons and barbershops to an Indian temple. He approaches the subject with earnest interest and easy humor.

It's no wonder it won Sundance Film Festival's special Jury Prize. Good Hair is cause for hope that Rock continues to make documentaries. His style is lively, smooth and up-to-date, like the most coveted 'do.

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