Doc of the Day: Mansome Review - Dan Schindel

Doc of the Day: Mansome

Posted in Days of Docs, Reviews by - July 20, 2012

More and more men are becoming more concerned with how they look. What does this mean?

Dir. Morgan Spurlock, 2012, 83 min

I could probably look better. My body is soft and doughy and in need of firmation. I’m paper-pale and have a slight pimple problem. Also I slouch. I see men with ridiculous bodies in the media – with toned muscles, flawless skin, and total hairlessness – and it makes me feel, well, bad. And that’s how tons of women feel and have felt for a while now. Guys are just catching up to them in being socially conditioned to place such importance on looks.

Mansome is about this growing trend. Metrosexuality, manscaping – whatever stupid phrase you want to call it, cosmetic products and procedures for men are skyrocketing in profits and popularity. This rubs pretty drastically against many traditional ideas of rugged, ain’t-give-a-damn masculinity. So how does the modern man define himself as a man? It’s a question worth delving into, and if someone besides Morgan Spurlock were doing the delving, this documentary might have been able to do it.

Okay, that’s pretty mean, but Spurlock seems committed now to directing only the shallowest, least memorable movies that he can. It’s a sad, sharp decline from Super Size Me (still one of my favorite documentaries) to Where in the World is Osama bin Laden? to The Greatest Movie Ever Sold to Comic-Con Episode IV to this. Mansome lacks even a binding narrative; it’s an aimless collection of scatterbrained sequences that add up to slightly more than nothing.

The best I can say about the doc is that it’s pretty funny in places, but that isn’t thanks to Spurlock. Rather, it’s because of the celebrities he brings in for their commentary on the subject. Paul Rudd, Judd Apatow, and Zach Galifianakis, who may or may not have simply wandered in front of a camera one day and just started sharing his thoughts, all provide some great laughs. Jason Bateman and Will Arnett, who also served as producers on the film, have a recurring bit where they discuss grooming habits while at a spa that’s cute but utterly pointless. “Cute but utterly pointless,” in fact, describes the movie rather succinctly.

The film is divided into sections based on various aspects of the male form: mustache, beard, body, face, etc. The most educational things get is when the scant few experts (the funny people outnumber the people who actually know what they’re talking about by a pretty significant margin here) explain the history of how these parts have been viewed by society, and how those views have changed over time. It’s a good reminder that while some may bemoan the “fall of man,” some perspective shows that this is really just the latest development in an ongoing evolution.

Seeded in with these relevant threads are things that have no bearing on the main subject at all. There’s an extended sequence following Jack Passion, a man with an extraordinarily luxurious beard. He’s abiding by a different standard of handsomeness than most other people, which is worth looking at. But the movie follows him for far too long, through beard competitions and more, and there’s no point to it. It doesn’t have anything to do with mansomeness.

Of course, “perspective” is never favored by those who decry change for no other reason than a love of “the way things were,” or at least how they perceive things were. Some of the people in Mansome are of the boring, silly opinion that the rise of male eyebrow threading and anus waxing means that our genitals might as well fall off. The most concrete answer given to the question of “what makes a man” is something to do with becoming independent of one’s parents, which I suppose makes a lot of women men as well.

Even if Mansome were trying to engage this topic in any meaningful way, it may still not have been good, because it’s working on the flawed assumption that the old gender distinctions actually mean something. They don’t. If a dude cares so much about his appearance that he goes to a specialty hairstylist? Whatever. There’s definitely a negative aspect to this trend as well, with some men developing something of an obsession with their appearance. But like I said before, that’s not a special cause for concern – that’s just men learning to feel the same pressure that women have. The implication is that this is wrong simply because now it’s men suffering from body image issues. Which is terrible. Overcoming this problem will have to involve men and women together standing up to the larger paradigms of image in society. Mansome isn’t going to help that happen any time soon. And for that, it’s useless.

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Dan Schindel loves movies more than you do.

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