Barbershop (2002)

babrerhsoWritten by: Mark Brown

Directed by: Tim Story

Setting: Chicago

Calvin Palmer (Ice Cube), a young aspiring entrepreneur and father-to-be, inherited a struggling barbershop, in the south side of Chicago, from his father. The shop serves as a hub, and a sanctuary of sorts, for Black men in the community.

But Calvin sees it as an impediment to his dreams. He seems deaf to his wife Jennifer (Jazsmin Lewis) when she encourages him to demonstrate strength and stability by sticking with the barbershop. He’s infatuated with unrealistic dreams and get-rich-quick schemes.

The gang includes several young men struggling to become gainfully employed and stay on the right side of the law. And Jimmy (Sean Patrick Thomas) tries to hard to impress everyone with his superior education. Terri (Eve), a beautiful young woman with a veneer of toughness, is disentangling herself from a bad relationship. Dinka (Leonard Earl Howze), a young poet who’s self conscious about his physique, is yearning for love. And Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer) savors all the drama (and stirs the pot), makes irreverent comments about civil rights, and–like Shakespeare’s fool–articulates the themes at the heart of the movie.

barbershop-2002-ice-cube

My husband and I loved this movie. It was on the seemingly infinite list of films we’d never gotten around to watching until John saw the glowing reviews coming in for the most recent sequel and decided to watch the whole trilogy in one go. The smart humor and dialogue is illuminated by outstanding performances all the way around. Each of these actors can hilariously speak volumes with just a look or a well-timed remark. It blends in just the right amount of unapologetic silliness and playfully explores racial stereotypes.

Looked at from another angle, it’s a coming-of-age story of sorts. In my mind, “coming-of-age” isn’t limited to adolescence, and I daresay few of us are fully prepared for it while in the throes of adolescence. We see a young man struggling to find a balance between keeping his dreams alive, staying open to myriad possibilities for his future, and fulfilling his responsibilities while figuring out what matters most to him in life.

It’s also a film about love, camaraderie, overcoming prejudices, and finding a place where people are willing to give you second chances. Perhaps one of the things I appreciate most about this movie is that it can be unapologetically silly and irreverent while never losing sight of its heart.

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