[This review was originally posted as part of our coverage of the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. It has been reposted to coincide with the film’s theatrical release.]
As Flixist’s mustachioed malcontent, I take certain pride in my looks (or rather, my “swag”). With my Colombian heritage giving me the curse of abnormal facial hair/body hair/a unibrow, I’m left with no option but to take part in the culture of manscaping. Do I feel shame every time I take scissors to my chest hair or shave the lower half of my leg just to be able to see my tattoo? Absolutely … and as far as I was concerned, I was doomed to hold this deep dark secret within me for the rest of my life.
When I heard that Morgan Spurlock was tackling the topic of male vanity and the culture of manhood with Mansome, I felt relief that I may finally have the answers/support that I have been seeking. Am I able to be a bearded man’s man who wears flannel and eat slabs of meat while shaving myself like an asexual marshmallow at a vegan restaurant? Am I able to maintain my masculinity while primping myself into the handsome journalist you see before you? Also, how did Morgan Spurlock sprout that wonderful handle bar mustache? Did he kill a mythical ox for that ability?
All those answers and more in this review.
Director: Morgan Spurlock
Release Date: May 18, 2012
Hosted by Will Arnett and Jason Bateman, Mansome focuses on what it means to be a man in today’s world. From the culture of manscaping to barber shop etiquette, Spurlock rounds up a dais comprised of experts, celebrities, stylists and ordinary folk to comment on what’s okay, what is over kill and what is borderline insane. Most importantly, it sheds light on the psychology of male vanity and why beards and mustaches and body hair evoke the feelings they do.
Much like every Spurlock-esque documentary, Spurlock does a fine job of blending comedy and information in a way that makes it digestible for the masses. Between the experts and color commentary from the likes of Zach Gilifinakis and Paul Rudd, Spurlock has arranged a nifty little committee that is able to boil down these ideas and theories involving the modern man all while making it entertaining. More specifically, the innerstitchels featuring Arnett and Bateman philosophizing in a day spa like a modern day Plato and Aristotle are hilarious little segments that help round out a silly little documentary that’s all about body hair. At the end of the day, a documentary about body hair isn’t going to change the world or solve a world issue, but at least Spurlock was able to take a silly discussion and make it both interesting and entertaining.
With all that being said, this documentary is the shallowest of Spurlock’s work. Missing the usual documentary staples like social experiments and statistics, Mansome plays out more like a VH1 “I Love (insert subject or decade here)” special. It’s more talking heads than it is substance, and while that formula may have made it funnier, it didn’t necessarily make it more insightful and thought provoking. Part of that problem has much to do with the choice in subjects. Ranging from a beardsman who competes at beard competitions to a self professed “metrosexual”, they all come off as arrogant douchebags who are way too into themselves. There’s one subject who’s a professional wrestler who get’s way too much screen time for a man who’s only in this movie because he has to shave his body before a competition. Other than that little nugget, he was completely useless and boring as a subject. I understand that this is essentially a documentary about male vanity, but it feels almost cheap that these subjects were chosen not for their insight, but rather because of the ridiculousness of their behavior. It’s sad when the most interesting subject is the director himself and all he’s there for is to tell the history of his mustache and show us the aftermath of how donating his mustache to charity (lulz) affected his relationship with his son. It’s all so very….absurd and ridiculous.
While Mansome may not feature the most thought provoking in depth topic, it provides a sizable plate of food for thought that is both entertaining and somewhat insightful. The jury of talking heads provide for interesting talking points and funny anecdotes, but the subjects of the documentary turn it into a shallow cable special of sorts. Still, if you’re a hairy man like myself and need reassurance that your upkeep isn’t that crazy, Mansome serves as a support group of sorts to help you come to the conclusion that you are a man damnit, and part of being a man is looking handsome however you may see fit.
Hubert Vigilla – Mansome may be funny and pretty entertaining, but it lacks the depth and insight to make it something more compelling. The film is a skimpy 84 minutes, and we jump from joke to interview to subject without really focusing on anything of substance for too long. In addition, it deals mostly with the outward appearance of masculinity rather than really digging into the concept of manliness both at a societal and individual level. Even Morgan Spurlock seems more detached from the proceedings rather than immersed like he is in his other documentaries. We never get enough of the historical perspective of manhood or the psychological hang-ups of modern man either, so we’re left essentially with a discussion of facial hair, product, and grooming services. In yesterday’s interview with Morgan Spurlock, he mentioned lots of bonus material will be included on the eventual Mantastic edition DVD, and that made me think that Mansome was not intended to be a feature-length documentary. Instead it should have been a cable mini-series, maybe three or four hour-long episodes. With all that extra runtime, there’d be enough room to explore male grooming in greater depth with more interviews and jokes and insight into notions of masculinity. As it is now, Mansome is a documentary that focuses too much on the mustache rather than the man that makes the mustache work for him. 60 – Decent