Morgan Spurlock's new documentary, Mansome, explores the touchy subject of masculinity and what it means to be a man in the twenty-first century. He asks the very general question, and then searches around Hollywood to gather interviews from people like Adam Carolla, Zach Galifianakis, and John Waters to weigh in on their opinions of manliness. Considering that Spurlock has made documentaries previously on eating McDonalds for thirty days straight, finding Osama Bin Laden, funding a film using product placement and advertising, showcasing four different people who plan to make it big at San Diego Comic-Con, and even created a show where subjects live in others' shoes for thirty days, this isn't too far out in left field for him.
Spurlock is a gifted documentarian, with a talent for creating the most interesting documentary topics and fueling his films with humor and substance. But Mansome isn't always as insightful or as interesting as it could be. The film has an idea, but struggles to build off of it, and what we're left with is an overgeneralized question, numerous chapters detailing small parts of that question, and a countless number of interviews that seem to be aiming for the witty aspect rather than the factual one clearly at hand. We get opinions every now and then, but actors like Galifianakis and Paul Rudd seem to be trying to come up with the best line to say rather than the best answer.
There's also a rather oddly placed subplot, involving Arrested Development co-stars, Will Arnett and Jason Bateman, spending a day at the spa, being pampered, massaged, and bathed in lotion while discussing what it means to be a man. While the idea is cute and genial, this feels, again, too focused on providing the documentary with fluffy comedy rather than statistics, facts, and opinions.
Probably the most interesting part of the film is when we learn about Jack Passion, a championship "bearder" who has traveled across the world, partaking in the sport of beard-building or "bearding." The sport part is growing the beard, and how you win is by showing it off to people. I'm reminded of when I had a debate with my friends about whether or not birding or bird-watching was a sport before seeking out The Big Year, a film centered around it. After much thought, I settled on the idea that birding was a sport. I'm not sure about bearding, however. But if it is, Passion can be considered the Babe Ruth of "bearding," winning many first place titles, world titles, and even traveling to a beard/mustache convention in England.
One topic that I desperately wish the film would've centered more on is the idea of metrosexual behavior in males and how it could quickly transcend into blatant narcissism. One interviewer makes the statement that many do not know what the word means. In a nutshell, it basically refers to males who over-compensate their appearance by the littlest of things, such as every hair on their eyebrows and mustache must be properly combed and straightened, their belt and shoes need to match, they must not have one piece of lint on them, etc. It's basically obsessive compulsive dressing.
We touch on this subject briefly at the end, but not as long as we spend on the idea of bearding and mustaches, which is a shame. Also, the film neglects to show how the pretty-boy image could've been influenced by actors and singers like Orlando Bloom, Justin Bieber, and Leonardo DiCaprio. Since many women find them attractive, do we try and model ourselves after them? And never do we touch on the idea of tattoos and body-ink as a form of expressing ourselves and how those have a positive or negative impact on our image.
Mansome is a nice little venture in the idea of masculinity, the increasing or decreasing idea of "manliness," and overall, what makes "a man" in the first place. The problems lie from the lack of mature interviews, with many of the subjects cracking jokes rather than discussing their true opinions, the time we spend learning about petty things that are needless and unimportant, and how the film just appears dis-interesting at times. But as of now, it is probably the best film we have on the subject.
Starring: Morgan Spurlock, Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, Adam Carolla, Paul Rudd, and Zach Galifianakis. Directed by: Morgan Spurlock.