There’s a new broom sweeping clean at music video channel Culture, the suits downstairs having sent Grant Madison to break the news that executive vice president in charge of programming Edna will be stepping down to be replaced by former supermodel Zora; planning to start her own rival channel, Edna promises to contact her protégé Anna and others, but Zora wants to keep Anna’s ideas, just not her current style.
Her unruly hair which she has fought with her whole life subdued in a tight bun which has seen her turned down for other positions where the producers give her feedback which is a frizzy hair’s breadth from telling her she is simply too black for a primetime presenting opportunity, Anna must accept the assimilation to what is acceptable in the workplace as dictated by mainstream taste and corporate expectation.
Begging for an appointment at Virgie’s exclusive salon which she cannot afford, already behind on the rent, Anna is transformed, extensions of real human hair stitched and woven into her scalp, but the cost and pain of her new beauty is high, her previous bad hair days as nothing to when the thirsty dead locks of another woman demand nourishment, first a specially formulated serum, then blood.
Written and directed by Dear White People‘s Justin Simien, Elle Lorraine is the timid Anna Bludso suffering from Bad Hair in 1989 Los Angeles, too patient and trusting as others take the limelight, Zora (The Librarians‘ Vanessa Williams) using her as a pawn in the reinvention of the channel against resident VJ’s Brook-Lynne, Sista Soul and Julius (Lena Waithe, Yaani King Mondschein and Jay Pharoah) and setting her against her proud uncle Amos (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s Blair Underwood).
An anthropologist who collates folklore such as the cautionary tale of the Moss Haired Girl, he accuses her of reducing the authentic African American experience to a stereotype, while her aunt Maxine (Picard‘s Michelle Hurd) is fortunately more sympathetic and supportive, knowing compromise is needed to survive in a world where image is everything and self-esteem doesn’t pay the rent.
Set in the superficial decade which celebrated consumerism, the ensemble which includes James Van Der Beek, Kelly Rowland, Laverne Cox and Usher are given too little to work with, Bad Hair frustratingly slow to progress under the shoulder pads which overwhelm the more interesting themes that the media turns all but the strongest into a commodity to be sold, hoping as with Anna’s unfocused ambition that slick presentation will compensate for what it lacks in killer instinct but played as a soap opera as much as a horror leaves the scissors somewhat blunted.
Bad Hair will be available digitally from Monday 5th July and on DVD and Blu-ray from Monday 12th July