Morgan Spurlock, the clown prince of documentary filmmaking, has examined fast food (“Super Size Me”) and product placement (“The Greatest Movie Ever Sold”).
Now, in the just-released “Mansome,” he turns his attention to the somewhat surprising topic of men’s grooming, enlisting champion beard growers, hirsute celebrities and a grab bag of barbers, anthropologists and magazine editors to bring the discussion of men’s looks and masculinity out of the closet and into the bright light of day.
“My ‘aha’ moment was the realization that men are dealing with the insecurities women have literally been dealing with for decades,” Spurlock says. “Now I’m being told I’m not perfect, I’m being told by this magazine I’m fat, I’m being told that I’m not good enough, and that I need to change the way I live if I want to please my woman. These are things that used to be on the cover of Cosmopolitan and are now on the cover of Men’s Health, Esquire and Details … That’s part of what the film taps into.”
And the timing couldn’t be better. According to Chicago-based research firm Mintel, sales of men’s toiletries at the mass market level is forecast to hit $2.6 billion in 2012, up more than 15 percent from 2006. Mintel’s research also found that 25- to 34-year-olds are the men most likely to use hair-styling products and moisturizers and to have their body hair waxed.
“Mansome” feels more like the kind of loosely structured conversation a group of guys might have than it does a documentary. One reason is the occasional presence of executive producers Will Arnett and Jason Bateman, who decamp to a day spa at the movie’s outset. Their awkward-seeming indulgences in manicure-pedicures, facials and massages and musings on the machinations of maleness provide the barest of through lines.
Spurlock kicks off his quest for the meaning of manliness by bidding farewell to the distinctive upside-down horseshoe of a mustache that’s defined his own look for the last decade – a move that makes him realize just how much his facial fuzz has become part of who he is. The reaction of his then-5-year-old son is priceless.
From there, he turns his focus to a handful of men who represent the wide range of attitudes toward male grooming rituals, introducing them in a series of free-form vignettes.
Along the way, Spurlock relies on an impressive laundry list of celebrities to provide comic commentary – Zach Galifianakis, John Waters, ZZ Top’s Dusty Hill and Billy Gibbons, Judd Apatow, Paul Rudd, Anthrax’s Scott Ian and uber-curmudgeon Adam Carolla. The tongue-in-hairy-cheek approach to the subject matter was no accident.
“What I wanted to do with the film is what male (grooming product) advertising has done for years, and that’s use humor and irreverence to get you engaged,” he said.
“Whether it’s Axe (body spray) or Old Spice (using) Isaiah Mustafa (who also appears in the film), because men don’t respond to that Enjoli ‘I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan’ kind of thing. Humor is what’s going to cater to a male audience, so I wanted to make sure we had comedians who would help bring a (sense of) levity to the topic. … When people laugh, they let their guard down and you have the potential for a bigger conversation.”