JUVENILE COMEDY ABOUT HAIR LOSS AND BALDNESS TAKES THE LOW ROAD TO LAUGHS.
Bald, a 2008 low-budget film written and directed by Blake Leibel, is the kind of raunchy, sophomoric comedy that appeals mostly to audiences with both high testosterone and high alcohol levels. In the hands of a Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin), such a film can end up containing genuine hilarity, but Leibel is no Apatow.
Whatever its dramatic and cinematic merits, however, the film is of interest to the hair loss community for the treatment of its narrator, the character who gives Bald its title.
Here’s the setup: Andrew Wood, played by David Lengel, is a typical college student (or at least Hollywood’s conception of a typical college student). He’s into partying and sex, rather more than studying and grades, and has perfected the art of burping to a previously unthinkable degree.
Andy is also, at age 20, losing his hair, which in fact gives him a great deal of anxiety.
Roommate Max (Jonathan Cherry), a self-professed genius with an impressive collection of bongs and a tendency to roll joints of an alarming size, tells him not to worry, but Andy’s self-confidence is affected by his increasing hair loss. Things only get worse when he flunks out of school. With no money, he’s afraid he’s going to have to move back home, even though he has just met the girl of his sexual dreams.
Max comes to the rescue by creating a scheme to amass enough money for Andy to bribe his way back into school and get the hair transplant surgery of his dreams. Said scheme involves convincing a hundred or so hot college babes to perform sexual acts on camera for a new porn Internet site.
This makes Max, Andy and all of their friends an unspeakable amount of money and, after dealing with some angry parents, allows them to live a dream life. For Andy that comes to mean embracing his hair loss and proudly shaving his head clean.
As one might infer from that brief synopsis, reality doesn’t play much of a role in Bald’s plot. One can assume that one can’t easily make tens of millions of dollars from an Internet porn site, especially in only a few weeks. Nor are most women in college really so anxious to become objects of Internet sexual fetishism, especially when being asked to work for a couple of 20-year-old slackers with no previous experience or credibility and no means of guaranteeing payment.
Still, one doesn’t watch a movie like Bald for its credibility; besides, Bald has a devil-may-care attitude that helps the viewer accept its absurdity. Unfortunately, that attitude and that absurdity aren’t enough to make it a good movie. Despite a few good laughs here and there, most of Bald’s humor is childish at best, stupid and/or inane and/or insulting at worst. There’s not enough originality in either the writing or the direction to make up for the paucity of genuine humor. And humor and originality aside, the plotting is slipshod and the characterizations, for the most part, stereotypical and stale.
It probably goes without saying that the treatment of women in the film is not exactly enlightened. Bikinis (and often just bikini bottoms) are the preferred costume for most of the female characters.
This is also not the kind of movie that is saved by some brilliant comic performances. Only true comic geniuses could overcome the material here. That said, the cast members bring an admirable commitment to their roles and do the absolute best they can.
Yet despite all this, Bald does deserve some points for its ability to capture what many men feel when they are losing their hair. The film’s opening scene is a dream sequence in which Andy, in bed with a quartet of sexy women, suddenly goes from balding to totally bald, invoking screams of terror from all involved in the sequence.
Moments later, in the real world, Andy complains to his bottle of hair growth pills, “Come on, Propecia, I’ve waited six months. Start working!” He regularly uses his electromassage brush, to no avail. And when he walks down the halls to his class, he imagines the rest of the student body gaping at him in slow-motion horror and commenting on his bald state, accurately capturing the feeling of paranoia that often follows the beginning of hair loss.
It’s all played for laughs, but there’s genuine emotion in it as well. And a viewer can’t help but feel pleased for him when, at the end of the film, Andy suddenly stops yearning for a hair transplant and says, “I’m 20 years old and I’m going bald. Only now — I just don’t care. Larry David, Danny DeVito, Sean Connery, Moby, Tony Soprano, Homer Simpson — all great bald men.
I now wish to join their ranks. Get busy living or get busy dying.” It’s only a movie, and not a good one at that, but the moment still packs a punch.
Not every man experiencing hair loss is going to become a multimillionaire porn entrepreneur like Andy, but here’s hoping more men are able to experience his eventual sense of comfort in his baldness.