December 21, 2020 – When I saw the title of this movie, I immediately thought of Chris Rock's 2009 film, “Good Hair.” Good Hair and Bad Hair are different, but also similar in some ways. Good Hair is a documentary comedy, while Bad Hair is a dark, supernatural horror/comedy. Both films are about how American fashion strongly devalues black curly hair in favor of straight hair in black women
The main character in this movie, set in 1989, is Anna Bludso (Elle Lorraine of “Dear White People”) a black woman who has been told her natural hair is ugly her whole life. The movie opens with a flashback of Anna as a child undergoing a painful chemical hair “relaxing” treatment that scars her for life.
As an adult, Anna works as an underappreciated, underpaid assistant at Culture, a TV station featuring black music videos. When a new programmer, Zora (Vanessa Williams of “Shaft”) takes over, Anna sees a chance for advancement, but instead, Zora steals her boyfriend, and her programming ideas.
Zora tells Anna that if she wants to advance in the company, she needs to dress better and to change her hair style. Zora points Anna to an upscale hair salon that specializes in hair weaves. I could barely watch the terrible, painful process that Anna goes through getting her hair weave. The horror parts of the film were far less horrible than the hair weave sequence.
Anna's transformation is immediate. She is noticed and complimented on her looks when she shows up at work for the first time with her new, straight hair. Men who had ignored her before are now showing interest in her. Thanks to her hair, she is now seriously being considered as a host for a new TV show.
Strange things begin to happen. Her hair seems to have a mind of its own. Anna reads a book of African American folk tales, and notices that her new hair is behaving like the cursed hair of a girl in a story called “The Moss Haired Girl.” She begins to suspect that she is being possessed by the hair of a witch. Her hair means to take over her body.
The movie has a number of hints about a larger conspiracy involving a company that sells this bewitched hair. Anna discovers that she is not the only woman around with haunted hair. If this sounds crazy, it is, and the movie just keeps getting crazier as it continues towards the conclusion.
Aside from the excruciating hair weave operation, and the pain that follows, I found much of this dark comedy amusing, just because it is so off-the-wall crazy. Elle Lorraine turns in a fine performance as a beleaguered woman who later becomes empowered, and, still later, cursed. This is a very difficult role, and it could have easily been mishandled.
Writer/director Justin Simien (“Dear White People”) crafts a fascinating fable about the cruel choices forced on black women trying to succeed in the entertainment and fashion industries. It is about how black women are forced to bow to the dictates of white fashion, and the price they pay for denying their true nature.
In this movie, Anna achieves empowerment, which is rare for black women in America, but at a terrible cost to her soul. This over-the-top dark comedy is both instructive and entertaining. It rates a B.
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