Shampoo (1975)
Shampoo (1975)

Genre: Dramatic Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 50 min.

Release Date: March 13th, 1975 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Hal Ashby Actors: Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Goldie Hawn, Lee Grant, Jack Warden, Tony Bill, George Furth, Jay Robinson, Luana Anders, Carrie Fisher

 


 

A

rather rowdy lovemaking session in utter blackness is repeatedly interrupted by the telephone, which George (Warren Beatty) insists upon answering, much to the chagrin of his bedmate Felicia (Lee Grant). Before they’re even through, he opts to depart on his motorcycle to visit a friend of his, Jill (Goldie Hawn), who is supposedly suffering from pancreatic ulcer attacks. In truth, she’s a lusty blonde, seeking attention from the man whom she thinks is her main beau. George clearly has eyes for more than one woman.

On the eve of the November 4th, 1968 election, George is also preoccupied with getting a loan to open up his own salon; after all, he’s the hairdresser for Barbara Rush. “I’ve got a lot of heads!” Unfortunately, he doesn’t have any notable references (or much of a business plan), which hurts his potential for acquiring the necessary funds. He is, however, quite comfortable at work in Beverly Hills, washing and cutting and styling – at least, normally, though he’s particularly stressed over the incident at the bank, his own lagging punctuality and sense of responsibility, nagging from his boss (for those same, previous deficiencies), and juggling far too many playthings. “Stop by the shop. I’ll see what I can do.”

Written by Robert Towne (“Chinatown,” “The Yakuza”) and Beatty himself, and directed by Hal Ashby, “Shampoo” is immediately blithe and quirky, operating at a breakneck speed through comically verbose dialogue. It’s also amusingly complex in its relationship designs, considering that everyone knows everyone else through one sexual liaison or another. And that’s before the political backdrop moves closer to the front, though the scripting is never as potent as when the outstanding actors and their convincing deliveries are allowed to shine.

Just when viewers might think George is caught in the middle of too many illicit affairs, he finds himself in yet another entanglement – with former flame Jackie (Julie Christie), who is currently seeing wealthy and powerful investor Lester (Jack Warden), himself a serial philanderer, who is married to Felicia. In a fortuitous bit of stereotypical judgment, George’s profession sees him regularly assumed to be gay, which makes his materialization in all the wrong places at all the wrong times far less threatening. It is, however, quite funny; the unassuming lothario essentially sleeps his way to success and ruination in outrageous alternation, struggling with a balancing act in the midst of many hilariously uncomfortable confrontations. “Are you married?” “Sometimes.”

Nixon’s election is something of a distraction from the various trysts that collapse in a spectacular fashion with the help of booze and jealousy and deceit, though it creates a snapshot of an era, documenting familiar movements and lifestyles and attitudes (sexual politics over the governmental kind). And George is perhaps the best representation of the bunch, demonstrating a carefree, idealistic, youthful, potential-squandering, futureless, sex-obsessed, live-in-the-moment sort of persona, seeking gratification and pleasure (and self-deception) at the expense of more meaningful interactions and relationships – a mindset that can be thoroughly corrupting despite the inevitable, destructive consequences. If America has lost something with the outcome of the 1968 election, it’s epitomized by George’s failure to recognize the pain he’s caused – or the fact that he doesn’t really regret any of his actions (until it’s too late). In fact, the script suggests that no one in any position has the answers; life is a confusing, jumbled, comical wreck, and love and romance are the most chaotic components of all.

– Mike Massie

  • 8/10