Shampoo (1975)

Shampoo (1975) tells the story (?) of George Roundy, a hairdresser who sleeps around with his customers, and the supposed “troubles” and “complications” that arise from his promiscuity.

Wow. I’m not going to lie, but this movie is SO INCREDIBLY BORING. To be fair, my expectations were pretty low because the reviews I read were really negative, but you know that I try as much as possible to avoid letting them influence my opinions. Anyway, when I read the synopsis (which pretty much summed up the entire film in one sentence), I wasn’t too excited about it either, but I thought that it was going to be a very trashy, over-the-top film that may not be Oscar worthy (By the way it got 4 Oscar nominations,with 1 win), but entertaining as hell. I mean, movies about shallow people leading shallow lives has never been appealing to me; I feel that the only way to really make them stand out is to go all out to make them over the top, silly and satirical. Well, at least that’s mostly what it was like for The Wolf of Wall Street, which I really enjoyed.

The thing is…there’s nothing happening in this movie. Don’t read on if you intend to watch the film *SPOILER* Ok, Warren Beatty is sleeping around with Goldie Hawn, Julie Christie, Lee Grant (in her Oscar winning role) and disturbingly, Lee Grant’s creepy daughter (I think. It’s strongly implied). Oh then Lee Grant’s husband Jack Warden (in his Oscar nominated role) is cheating on Lee Grant on Julie Christie, who is still trying to seduce Warren Beatty. Or maybe not. Honestly, I don’t care. They then attend this party and of course all the sleeping around naturally revealed itself, with Lee Grant leaving Jack Warden, and Jack Warden proposing to marry Julie Christie even though he saw her having sex with Warren Beatty. Oh, and he still agrees to invest in Warren Beatty’s shop, because he “doesn’t know what’s right or wrong anymore” or something like that…wow…*SPOILER*

I really don’t know what the movie is trying to tell me. It’s very muddled, slow and repetitive. Like you would, you know, think that all those sleeping around would be *ahem* a real sight, but nope. And the dialogue can be problematic in this aspect as well, I know they’re trying to establish George as a wishy washy guy who doesn’t answer questions straight, but after a while I’d rather he just answer the questions that are thrown at him straight away (“Are you gay?” “Does it matter?” blablabla) because it’s really tiring to follow. And…seriously, what’s the point of the whole freaking movie? I mean, I can see that it seems to be criticising George’s behaviour, especially in the ending, but the impact of its message is very very weak due to the lack of character development. I feel like George is still the same person he was at the start of the film. The only effective message it brought across is that these people are empty people with no purpose in their lives, and they’re just bored and sleeping around, but it didn’t need to be so draggy (movie is not even 2 hours).  In fact, I don’t even know whether the movie trying to be a comedy (Maybe I have no sense of humour, but I didn’t find any of the scenes particularly funny),or a drama (no emotional tension). I guess the best satires blend both together, but this movie seems to straddle between both, and the final result is half-baked.

The acting is kinda flat in general. It’s a star-studded cast, and I think the actors know this, because they all seem to be coasting on their star power in general. If the cast was some unknown cast instead (with the exact same performances), I’d have just passed it off as a cheap TV movie. Warren Beatty is not my favourite actor, but I think he’s a really great movie star. Ok, I think he’s a decent actor, not fantastic, but quite good. I feel like he was the George Clooney of his time, both of them are decent actors, considered good looking and charismatic, and they like to produce and direct their own films. I’d probably give Beatty the edge in terms of acting, but not much. I really liked his performances in Bonnie and Clyde and Heaven can wait, but I’d also agree with some of the criticisms that he tends to coast on charisma in some of his performances. Like the emotional aspects of his performances are usually very “safe” and good, but not like OMG amazing. Over here, I tell you, he is totally coasting on his appeal. His whole performance and delivery was a bit flat, and frankly, he sounded very bored. Other than the physical appeal, I don’t even think he is trying to turn on the charm he uses in a lot of his other performances, like he’s just “I’m physically sexy, so screw the rest (no pun intended)”. Ok I’m not a girl so I don’t know what they want (but honestly, I doubt girls’ nowadays would be drawn to a guy like that), but without the charm (very important in this case) I honestly find George quite a loser…the way he always seems so lost because he cannot juggle his women, the way he doesn’t answer your questions directly, the way he always fumbles around in his job…

The female performances were slightly better, but I wasn’t crazy about them either. Julie Christie is an actress whom I usually like. I’m not a fan, but I thought she was great in Darling and McCabe & Mrs Miller. I haven’t watched her in Away From Her, but I think that she must have been excellent since there are people saying that she should have won the Oscar over Marion Cotillard’s towering achievement in La vie en Rose. Over here, I thought she gave the weakest performance among the three actresses, although I usually like her more than the rest. She really succumbed to the poor writing and her performance was quite one note. She was basically a bitch throughout. I think she tried to add a few vulnerable moments here and there, but eh, it overall just didn’t quite work for me. It also didn’t help that her character was so freaking illogical, although she could have tried to play it in a “mysterious” and “vulnerable” way instead to at least justify her actions.

I think Lee Grant, and very surprisingly for me, Goldie Hawn gave the best performances. I’m not saying that I’m blown away by either of them, but at least they managed to add some layers to their characters that made them stand out. Goldie Hawn is playing a more serious version of her character in Cactus Flower (she won the Oscar for that performance), and although I frankly don’t get her character, who can be incredibly annoying, she really managed to make me sympathise with her plight at times. The same goes for Lee Grant, who even won her only Oscar here. I actually prefer Goldie Hawn’s work, and I think that she’s quite good as well, but I don’t find her performance particularly outstanding to warrant that win. She has some strong moments, like when she’s accusing Beatty of neglecting her, and her final realisation that she was going to lose both Warden and Beatty to that slutty Julie Christie (loved that mutual death glare LOL). But I think the quality of the writing is just too poor for me to care about her character (could have focused a bit more on her emptiness/loneliness) Ok, I admit that I watched this film out of curiosity for her performance, because I have never watched a movie of hers before. Some people are saying that her win is totally undeserved, while some say that she grows on repeated viewing…but I doubt I’d ever watch this movie again unless I really want to examine her performance again.

Oh, and Jack Warden is good too, but I feel like there’s really nothing much for his character also.

Overall, Shampoo is a rather weak film that I’m really not crazy about. I wouldn’t even say that it is a missed opportunity because the entire premise is just utterly ridiculous. Maybe it was considered relevant and “important” back in 1975, but now it’s just dull. Some mildly entertaining and funny moments here and there, but otherwise underwhelming. 2.5/5.

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