Salon, The (2007): Mark Brown (Barbershop) Version of Play, Beauty Shop

Reviewed by Tim Grierson

An innocuous iteration of Barbershop, The Salon offers another group of mostly African-American characters talking, living and loving in between cutting and styling customers hair.

Based on the play Beauty Shop, the film, adapted and directed by Mark Brown (who also wrote Barbershop), never rises above a pedestrian crowd-pleasing style, doling out paeans to the virtue of the common man without much verve or originality.

Single mom Jenny (Vivica A. Fox) owns a modest Baltimore beauty salon while caring for her troublemaking grade-school son (Dabir Snell). Unfortunately, the salon faces eminent-domain dangers from the city, which wants to raze the property to construct a parking structure. Jennys salon isnt located in the greatest part of town–prostitutes and drunks walk the streets around her shop–but it has sentimental value since the place has been owned by her family for years.

Unlikely help comes in the form of Michael (Darrin Dewitt Henson), a good-looking city attorney who feels for her situation despite representing the other side in the dispute. Jenny and Michael feel an attraction, which prompts him to offer some assistance, even though it could cost him his job.

Meanwhile, the salons colorful employees and clientele engage in spirited discussions about race, politics, and sex, unaware of Jennys dilemma to rescue her doomed property.

The Salon betrays its theatrical origins with its emphasis on extended dialogue scenes centered in one locale, the salon. This set-bound construction makes the film feel static, relying too heavily on the characters playful bantering back and forth for its comedy. Unfortunately, most of the salon employees are stereotypes whose conversations tread familiar territory. The gay hair-dresser D.D. (DeAngelo Wilson) is a frustratingly flamboyant cipher, fully of bitchy attitude but lacking any sort of personality. When he spars with Ricky (Dondre Whitfield), the salons resident playboy whos uncomfortable around homosexuals, their conversations are akin to the verbal riffing in mediocre sitcoms where putdowns are more important than sparkling dialogue or insightful comments. Especially after Barbershop, the endless chatter feels less amusing than it does predictably incessant.

Jennys uncertain romance with Michael finds some traction because of the attractive leads, but Brown doesnt invest as much time into this subplot, making the possible love affair feel like little more than a halfhearted stab at wrangling the date-movie crowd. The Salon doesnt allow the romance to bloom naturally, instead throwing in artificial plot contrivances that force Jenny and Michael to break apart, only to come back together in an unsatisfying conclusion that requires the mature, sophisticated Michael to behave in a silly manner.

Brown fails to adequately dramatize the films central tension. While Jenny is saddened that her shop will be closed, the government does plan on reimbursing her for her trouble so that she could, in theory, open her shop somewhere else. While its understood that Jenny values that exact location because of family memories attached to the property, the movie creates the false impression that if she doesnt stop the planned demolition, her employees will be out of a job and the salon will close forever. Rather than having Jenny weigh her options for the future, The Salon turns into a clichd attack on the mean, heartless government that doesnt care about small business owners.

Though it touches on the dangers of the inner city, “The Salon” feels too squeaky-clean to make much of the issue. The movies pimp and prostitute characters are declawed, Hollywood amalgams of the real thing, offered up as just more colorful neighborhood characters. Indicative of the problem, the movies one possibly risqu moment, which involves the prostitutes demonstrating how they give oral sex on a banana, has been trimmed in such a way that the film keeps its family-friendly PG-13 rating at the expense of more adult humor.

As the centerpiece of this lackluster project, Fox (who also produced) gives a passable performance, but shes stuck playing a character that’s a generically noble and responsible single mother. While her employees riff on sexual politics or racial double standards in the entertainment industry, her Jenny often gets saddled with being the peacekeeper of the group, which makes her more of an observer to her own story. When she does deliver a big speech about, for instance, the impact of blacks on American history, Fox lacks the presence to take command of the moment.

The Salon premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, and the length of time its been sitting on the shelf is noticeable for the fact that Terrence Howard (who achieved breakout stardom thanks to another 2005 Sundance entry, Hustle & Flow) has a tiny part as a no-good boyfriend of one of the hairdressers. Howard has moved on to greener pastures, while this film has become less relevant in both its humor and trite political messages.


Running time: 92 minutes

Director: Mark Brown
Production companies: Codeblack Entertainment, C4 Pictures
US distribution: Bigger Picture
Producers: Mark Brown, Carl Craig, Vivica A. Fox
Executive producer: David T. Odom
Co-producers: Brent Odom, Zatella Beatty, Lita Richardson
Co-executive producers: Derrick Lea, Doug McHenry, Bo Flowers, Willie Ponder
Screenplay: Mark Brown, based on the play Beauty Shop, written by Shelly Garrett
Cinematography: Brandon Trost
Editor: Earl Watson


Jenny (Vivica A. Fox)
LaShaunna (Kym Whitley)
Patrick (Terrence Howard)
Brenda (Monica Calhoun)
Ricky (Dondre Whitfield)
Trina (Taral Hicks)
D.D. (DeAngelo Wilson)