On Election Day, 1968, a hairdresser and ladies' man is too busy cutting hair and dealing with his various girlfriends and his mistress, whose husband he meets and finds out is having an affair with his ex-girlfriend.
Thirty-something George Roundy is a Beverly Hills hairdresser, who spends as much time sleeping with his female clients as he does doing their hair. Whether they want to admit it, all the women in his life are for the most part aware that they are are not the only one with whom he is sleeping. And some, such as the wealthy and married Felicia Karpf, have a stronger emotional dependence on George than they would like to admit. George's current girlfriend is Jill, an up and coming actress. Jill's best friend is Jackie Shawn, one of George's old girlfriends who left him because he couldn't make a true commitment to her. In turn, Jackie is currently having an affair with Lester Karpf, Felicia's wealthy businessman husband. George is unhappy working at a salon owned by Norman, with whom he is constantly butting heads. In his first act of wanting finally to be a grown up, George wants to open his own salon, but doesn't have the financial resources to do it, and no bank will lend him money ...Written by
Beatty says he approached Towne to do a modern version of the classic restoration comedy called The Country Wife (hilarious by the way). In the original play, the hero beds all the wives by confessing to their husbands that he's impotent so the husbands make fun of him and think nothing of leaving their frustrated and underappreciated wives in his care.
Here in the updated "Shampoo", Beatty and Towne make the hero an assumed-to-be-gay hairdresser (instead of impotent)and the results are inspired bedroom farce mixed with social satire.
Younger viewers may find the film a little dated but it was a "period" film when it was made (set in 68 when it was shot in 74) so Ashby consciously gave it that dated look. For me this and Heaven Can Wait are Beatty's best work. Walks a fine comic/tragic line. And this really feels like the closest character to Beatty's heart. It was after this that I went back and saw Splendor in the Grass and began to appreciate Beatty as an actor rather than just a gigolo celebrity.
Great dialogue by Towne, Jack Warden's hilarious and Julie Christie is stunning.
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