I'm a big fan of Morgan Spurlock. Super Size Me and The Greatest Movie Ever Sold are two of my favorite documentaries, and Spurlock is every bit deserving of the recognition he's received on behalf of his creative endeavors. So it was with high expectations that I sat down to Mansome, Spurlock's latest film, which attempts to outline the social perceptions and definitions of male grooming. It's an intriguing concept, as far as I'm concerned. And Spurlock certainly does his damndest to make it interesting. Interspersed with the documentary's overall arc is a little "mini-movie" that follows Jason Bateman and Will Arnett to the spa for some beautification treatments. But I was surprised by how lackluster the whole thing felt by the end, and what a disappointment it was overall. The biggest mistake I think the film makes is spending too much time with two men who are just patently unlikeable unless you belong to their respective societal niches. The first is Jack Passion, a man who has won numerous beard competitions around the world and holds the unofficial title of America's Greatest Beardsman. But Passion is a pretentious and even downright rude individual who claims that since a man's natural state is bearded, clean-shaven guys are "in perpetual boyhood." On the opposite end of the spectrum is Ricky Manchanda, a man made up of every annoying metro cliche you can imagine. We follow him around town as he takes various grooming treatments (at one point advising a cosmetologist to remove just two hairs from one of his eyebrows in order to shape it properly) and shows off his new clothes and takes - according to his own words - an hour and a half to get ready for each day. To each his own, to be sure. But both of these men are insufferably consumed with themselves and their excessive vanity pollutes the film. Had they only been briefly mentioned as part of a larger look at their respective societal subsets, it wouldn't be quite so detrimental. But easily 70-80 percent of the film focuses on them exclusively. Mansome has a great concept and a few winning moments (largely courtesy of Bateman and Arnett), but it's completely torpedoed by the two subjects at its center. Here's hoping Spurlock's next movie is a return to form.
MONICA & DAVID
OUTFOXED: RUPERT MURDOCH'S WAR ON JOURNALISM
THE SWELL SEASON
Markéta Irglová are two of the most beautiful people alive today. Not physically so much; I mean specifically in regards to their souls. I say that because there's an astonishing depth to the songs they've written; musically and lyrically. If you've heard anything they've recorded individually or as a duo (under the moniker The Swell Season) or seen the movie Once you know exactly what I'm talking about. The Swell Season is a fly-on-the-wall documentary about the duo that focuses specifically on the surge in fame and critical recognition they've received since the release of Once. Filmed entirely in black and white, and occasionally intercutting extended scenes from live performances, The Swell Season does a pitch perfect job of capturing the creative energy of Glen and Markéta. Glen's family is interviewed in a few places, though unfortunately no interviews with the family Irglová. There's an unflinching quality to the presentation that I greatly appreciated because it imbues the whole experience with a palpable authenticity. More than a few times the two confront each other on camera over various tour-related or personal disputes, and though sincere and candid their arguments never devolve into unnecessary aggression. As one can surmise, the two had a romantic relationship at one point in time - another aspect the documentary doesn't shy away from. And while that's long since become a part of the past, it's amazing to see how intertwined their souls are - absent a romantic relationship. If you're a fan of their music or of Once I can't recommend more strongly that you add this to your must-see list. If you were to remove the interviews, The Swell Season could almost play like a black-and-white sequel to Once in its own way. Such as it is, it's a magnificent documentary in its own right; to say nothing of the captivating music and personalities of the two principle subjects.