Shampoo [1975]

For those who consider Bulworth to be a savage and unprecedented political send-up, it's worth revisiting Warren Beatty's first, and best, attempt at outrageous social criticism. Mercilessly exposing the essential vacuity of both the sexual revolution and conservative alarmism over cultural permissiveness, Shampoo remains the best movie ever made about Nixon's America, and one of the very best about the tragic and disappointing conclusion to the 1960s. Set on the eve of the 1968 presidential election that elevated Nixon to the Oval Office, Beatty's uproarious satire follows a hairdressing Lothario (played by Mr. You're So Vain himself) in and out of the beds of several women, including the wife of a wealthy businessman, his mistress, and his young daughter (Carrie Fisher, in her first screen role). Juxtaposing tropes from Restoration comedy with Southern California dialogue and a healthy, hilarious dash of running commentary from election returns, Beatty's ruthless awareness cuts through the film like a scalpel. The performances are uniformly excellent and surprisingly ego-free; though Jack Warden's portrayal of Lester, the twice-cuckolded businessman, stands out as a model of sensitive, nuanced parodic acting. Released in 1975 during the messy cleanup at the conclusion of the Watergate era, Shampoo neatly bookends the Nixon presidency, and concludes with the frightening finality of an iron door slamming on a cell. Commended for including the live version of Jefferson Airplane's Plastic Fantastic Lover. --Miles Bethany

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