Well Groomed

If you’re like me and you get to watch dozens of documentaries each year, you’ll find that you can never use the phrase, “Now, I’ve seen everything!” ever again. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, a documentary comes along and tells you otherwise. Rebecca Stern’s documentary Well Groomed takes us into the world of competitive Creative Grooming. Think of it as bringing together the worlds of art and dog grooming.

Creative grooming is a little hard to describe, so take a look at the pictures with this review. It’s almost like sculpting using a poodle as the material. The groomer starts with a poodle with its hair blown-out and cuts, sculpts, and dyes the poodle’s fur to create art or in most cases a diorama of Alice In Wonderland, the Little Mermaid, or Jurassic World. Whatever your brain can imagine, and your eye can see.

“…starts with a poodle with its hair blown-out and cuts, sculpts, and dyes the poodle’s fur to create art…”

Well Groomed is a pretty straightforward documentary. You get some crazy looking poodles, a glimpse into the lives of some incredibly competitive groomers, and a little controversy. Filmmaker Stern follows four groomers from different parts of the U.S. as they prepare for the ultimate Creative Grooming event in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

The four groomers are Adriane Pope from Conway, South Carolina. She is a seasoned veteran just on the cusp of being the best of the best. Speaking of the best, there’s Angela Kumpe, who is considered one of the nation’s best and first to elevate the level of art is grooming. Cat Opson is from Dana Point, California and she is a rising star representing the West Coast. Lastly, Nicole Beckman is the relative newcomer from Ithaca, New York. She just purchased her first dog salon and kennel. As a fan of creative grooming, she now has the space to take on the art form regularly.

You know what? People love their dogs, and a small subset of those people love showing them off in competition. Anyone with a passion for what they do is always a fascinating subject in documentaries and Well Groomed offers a very positive view of these people.

“People love their dogs, and a small subset of those people love showing them off in competition…”

What harm does Creative Grooming foist upon the groomer’s canine companion? This all too brief discussion was the most fascinating part of the documentary. Can the extensive dyeing of fur cause damage to the dog? Also, while the groomer sees this as art, a cynical public might see it as humiliation. Can a dog feel humiliation?

As you can see, the “art” leans more toward “parade float” than Picasso both in quality and longevity (the dogs are shaved bare after the competition). The lives of the groomer while interesting are not exactly noteworthy or memorable. Well Groomed is a decent documentary that will delight anyone with a passing interest in the subject. The doc delves almost too much into the lives of the groomers, than displaying the art, which could have been better balanced.

Look, it is what it is. Well Groomed serves more to alert you that creative grooming is a thing, but most likely will find it hard to win over those uninterested in the subject.

Well Groomed (2019) Directed by Rebecca Stern. Well Groomed made its world premiere at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival and the 2019 San Francisco International Film Festival.

7 out of 10 stars

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