BAD HAIR (2020)

Written & Directed by: Justin Simien
Cinematography: Topher Osborn
Editor: Philip J. Bartell & Kelly Matsumoto

Cast: Elle Lorraine, Jay Pharoah, Lena Waithe, Vanessa Williams, Blair Underwood, Laverne Cox, James Van Der Beek, Usher Raymond IV, Kelly Rowland, Robin Thede, Judith Scott, Michelle Hurd, MC Lyte, Chante Adams, Nicole Byer, Steve Zissis, Yaani King Mondschlien, Ashley Blane featherstone, Daheli Hall, Courtney Sauls 

In 1989 an ambitious young woman gets a weave in order to succeed in the image-obsessed world of music television. However, her flourishing career may come at a great cost when she realizes that her new hair may have a mind of its own.

While the film is definitely inspired, as it comes off as modern-day folklore. It also seems to become more fascinated with its time period of being set in 1989.

Which leads to plenty of comedy and laughs due to fashions and even hairstyles. It also comes at a certain cornerstone of culture. Where weaves really started to become popular and were seen as a symbol of beauty and professionalism and the film explores that concept to a degree. Which is a horror in itself becoming someone else or to a degree letting go of your natural self for something more processed and artificial.

Here the hair is haunted to a degree. This leads to some social satire and follows the general rules of a horror film though without much of the violence you usually see. Though it gets it’s point across. 

There are plenty of laughs, not as many thrills and chills. As the film comes across as looking for more depths, but still feels shallow itself or a kind of artificial product. The film comes off weak for what it seems to promise.

Even filming in old film stick seems inspired but also reminds us how much of a throwback the film is and makes it come across. As more synthetic than it should.

As it also never comes off as playful as it seeks. It wants to be campy but then wants to be serious and teach some kind of story. It tries to be of the time it is set in but seems to rest more in humor as everything else seems or feels like it falls short in what it seeks. As there is little to no tension. 

It also doesn’t help when it tips it’s audience off so many times. Like at the salon when Laverne Cox shows up and her make up is already obscured and the tone looks more zombie-ish. You can tell something is off or not right.

For most of the movie, you wait for something to happen as you keep getting hints until you finally want to see some action. 

The special effects seem like CGI when it was first beginning. So that when used it never comes across as scary if anything it comes off as elementary and almost comical. So that the film never has any scares and the kills are unimpressive. 

The film tries to have style but comes off as more artificial. As the film seems to want to say anything tiring in many issues into the horror but it comes across as shallow. As the characters come off as.

Don’t get me wrong it does entertain but comes across as a movie that never comes fully. It feels filled with filler. So that it feels more like an episode rather than a movie. Especially with it’s ending. 

In the end, it has such promise and seems like it is going for a goal that has the audience excited only to fizzle out. More like an overwrought anthology story that goes on for too long.

Grade: C

PATTI CAKE$ (2017)

Written & Directed By: Geremy Jasper
Cinematography By: Federico Cesca
Editor: Brad Turner
Music By: Geremy Jasper & Jason Binnick

Cast: Danielle Macdonald, Bridget Everett, Cathy Moriarty, Siddharth Dhananjay, Mamoudou Athie, MC Lyte

PATTI CAKE$ is centered on aspiring rapper Patricia Dombrowski, a.k.a. Killa P, a.k.a. Patti Cake$, who is fighting an unlikely quest for glory in her downtrodden hometown in New Jersey.

I remember in the past where a movie like this that was a hit at Sundance and had a strong word of mouth from critics would do respectable business after being gobbled up by an independent studio and be well placed. As well as given a lot of exposure and publicity.

This film just seems to be put out at random to little and no fanfare. Not even playing in the usual art houses (at least as far as New York goes)

It’s a shame as this movie is a strong crowd-pleaser. That has heavy mainstream appeal. That I am shocked it wasn’t promoted more. As it doesn’t seem to be a hard sell as some independent films of its ilk might be.

The film is predictable and plays like 8 MILE only a little lighter in theme and not quite as serious. Though it does have a white female who dreams of being a rapper.

What the film does right is that it fills the film with reality but also adds in the absurdities that even when down and depressing it adds humor and a lightness of mood.

The characters are all outcasts in their own way. Especially from what is expected of them. With a positive comedic middle eastern hype man. Who works for a pharmacy by day and is a weed smoker. A producer who is a black goth and musician. The main character is an overweight bartender rapper on the search for a permanent job. To help pay the bills at home as well as help pay the medical bills for her grandmother (played by an unrecognizable Cathy Moriarty) meanwhile having to deal with a mother who was a wannabe singer and is now a lush who sings at karaoke and slides up to any man who treats her nicely.

So as you can see the cast is diverse and plays to a wide audience. Mainly anyone who feels different or ostracized. That makes the film kind of empowering.

You know where the film will end up and that victory of some kind is inevitable. Though the film has something to say about struggle, artistry, and talent.

The filmmaking isn’t awe-inspiring but it is solid. Watching the journey is fun if at times rough. But the film is rough around the edges but always has a sweetness. Even when the film chooses to be cruel or bitter to the characters at times.

The ensemble is strong, though it is rounded by a good performance by Bridget Everett as her alcoholic mother. Who is convinced sex appeal always works. Watching her here especially if you ever get to see her one-woman cabaret show is a marvel. As is the performance by the lead actress Danielle Macdonald who is actually Australian but gives off a flawless jersey accent. She had to learn to rap and master the New Jersey accent for her role. Though the writer-director wrote all the rap lyrics

The films cast being so diverse adds to the eclectic quality of the movie and its soundtrack. As well as acknowledging that most communities in society intersect.

The film does bring up race in a few scenes and even explores how real she is or isn’t in a scene with her idol a legendary hip hop record producer who tells her about realness and commodification of a race and it’s culture. So these films at least go there and acknowledge it.

The question of cultural appropriation does come up. More as an accusation from a person of color tho at first was an inspiration then drawn more to represent a villain or at least an adversary. Now by putting that opinion into a character who ends up representing bad is already bias especially when This film is written and directed by a caucasian. Making it even more questionable by kind of dismissing the idea and even more villainizibg The person go color for stating it.

The film already makes one question that invisibly this is a story about overcoming fear and following your dream a kind of rags to riches story that covers an overweight white girl and making herself feel good and overcoming her problems but the question remains would an audience or even critics like it feel the same way if the film was about an overweight African American female or would it be seen as familiar or typical. Would there be an interest or audience?

This is a film definitely worth your time. Though it will seem a bit familiar. Just as it is following a trend I am a fan of and hope to see more of, having more coming of age, uplifting stories about women and not being about romantic relationships. More films about empowering themselves and following their dreams with very little sex involved. Not tom mention a great soundtrack

Grade: B-