Tuesday, December 14, 2021


Several months ago, TCM had a spotlight on California in the movies. One of the movies I actually hadn't seen before was Shampoo, so I recorded it. I recently noticed that it's got a couple airings coming up on various of the Showtime channels, including tomorrow morning at 10:10 AM on Showtime Showcase.

Warren Beatty plays George Roundy, who at the opening of the movie is sleeping with Felicia Karpf (Lee Grant), on the night before the 1968 presidential election. But that romantic tryst is broken up with George gets a call from another woman, Jill Haynes (Goldie Hawn). Jill is technically George's girlfriend, although as we can see he's not above sleeping with other women because, well, it's just so pleasurable to sleep with a woman. Jill has some sort of nervous issue, and needs George to come over and see her because, well, reasons.

George knows both of these women, as well as a third, Jackie (Julie Christie), because of his job. He's a hairstylist at a high-end salon in Beverly Hills, and all the women rave about what a tremendous job George does on their hair. So much so, in fact, that he's often asked to go out to their houses to do the hairstyling. (How George ever finds time to work considering all the running around he's doing is a good question.) And because he seems to be the one they all want, George has decided that he'd like to go out on his own and start his own salon.

Of course, to do this, he's going to need some money. Even though he believes he's got a great business plan, and possibly he does although I wouldn't know how to judge a business plan for a hair salon, the banks aren't so sure, and probably for the same reasons as me. They want more financial and business information from George, which really ticks him off. However, while George is working at the salon, it's revealed that Felicia's husband Lester (Jack Warden) is rich, and invests in new businesses, or venture capital before they called it that. Perhaps Lester could fund seed money.

If George's life seems complicated from those few paragraphs, it's about to get a lot more complicated. Jill is an aspiring actress, and she's gotten a call from a producer about a part that would require her travelling to Egypt. Jill would like some commitment from George one way or another and this could lead to a break-up of their relationship. And then, George gets a call to do a hairstyling at Jackie's house. While he's doing it, in the bathroom, who should show up but... Lester? Jackie had been George's serious boyfriend before Jill came along, and George still things about trying to rekindle things. But Jackie has moved on and is now seeing Lester, despite being good friends with Felicia. Needless to say, neither of the Karpfs realize yet that the other is stepping out on them.

I mentioned at the beginning the the film opens on the night before election day, and George gets invited to an election party by Lester, who wants him to bring Jackie because nobody would have a problem with Jackie and George being an apparent item. (Lester, for what it's worth, things that George, being a male hairstylist and not a barber, must be gay.) Jill also shows up with another man. Eventually all the main characters leave that party for a house party that seems more like the swinging 60s, where some of the secrets are found out.

Shampoo is a complicated little movie, and that's probably going to make it hard for people to like. It also has some uncomfortable moments, such as the Karpfs' teenaged daughter (Carrie Fisher at the beginning of her career) propositioning George. It's also a movie that for a good two-thirds of it feels like it's not really going anywhere. Then there's the genre issue; most synopses claim it's a comedy, or maybe a satire or farce. For me, it was really more of a drama. On the bright side, however, the performances are uniformly quite good, and some people will probably enjoy seeing the Los Angeles area as it was back in the day.

Shampoo may not be for everybody, but it's certainly an interesting watch.

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