‘Mansome,’ ‘Sexy Baby’ Tribeca Reviews: It's About More than Manscaping and Porn

Two movies that bowed in back-to-back openings at the Tribeca Film Festival offer clues about how men and women see themselves these days 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A film festival can’t provide the definitive word on how comfortable men and women are with themselves in today’s society, but it can offer clues.

That’s what occurred at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City when two movies with world premieres at the festival, “Mansome” and “Sexy Baby,” serendipitously happened to have back-to-back press screenings.

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“Mansome,” which opens in theaters on May 18, is a new documentary by the prolific Morgan Spurlock (“Super Size Me”). It takes a humorous look at the ever-more-enthusiastic grooming habits of men today, ranging from facial hair to manscaping to the marketing of a product designed to alleviate testicular perspiration.

Spurlock consults various experts to assess whether he should keep his own long-worn mustache but then, as a charity stunt, shaves it off, which causes his young son to cry piteously. Looking at his freshly shaved self in the mirror, Spurlock observes, “I do look ten years younger, but now with a giant forehead and receding hairline.”

Popping up throughout the film are executive producers Will Arnett (pictured at right with Ben Silverman, far left, and Spurlock) and Jason Bateman, who treat themselves to a spa day together, bonding over facials, pedicures, massages, etc. In improvised comedy bits, they discuss their own grooming habits, those of other men, and women they have dated.

Actors Paul Rudd and Zach Galifianakis also are interviewed on their own self-described casual approach to manly grooming. Rudd, for example, touts Aqua Velva skin bracer over fancier brands. “It stings, so you know it’s working,” he says.

Far more serious and intriguing is “Sexy Baby,” a first film by journalists-turned-directors Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus. It looks at society’s obsession with sex and how that affects women of different ages. For two years, the movie follows three very different women: Winnie, a bright 12-year old girl in Manhattan; Laura, a vapid 22-year old teacher’s aide in North Carolina; and Nichole, a thoughtful 32-year-old ex-porn actress (who worked as Nakita Kash) in Florida.

Over the course of the movie, Winnie goes from being a joking kid practicing gymnastics to a snarling, Facebook-obsessed adolescent battling with her parents over just how revealingly she can dress and what sort of pictures she can post online. Laura seems to have nothing on her mind besides a burning desire to have a cosmetic surgery on her genitalia to enhance its appearance, which has been her obsession ever since a porn-watching boyfriend dissed her down there. (A more appropriate response on her part might have been to compare his own package with that of male porn stars.)

Meanwhile, Nichole has given up acting in porn to teach pole dancing to housewives. She is trying desperately to get pregnant with her husband, with whom she runs a business booking porn actresses for exotic dancing gigs.

The movie features numerous man-on-the-street interviews with high school and college students, all of whom indicate that they are enthusiastic watchers of internet porn and consider "Girls Gone Wild"-type behavior within the bounds of normalcy. No wonder Winnie and her parents are having such a hard time navigating the maze of what it means to be growing up female now.

It makes the cautionary advice of Nichole all the more poignant when she says, “[Regular] women want to be like Nakita Kash, but Nichole just wants to be like them.”

“Sexy Baby” is seeking distribution.