Movie Review — Hair care mogul demonstrates what to do with “Good Fortune”

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If I didn’t know (a little) better, I’d swear Paul Mitchell hair care products cash produced “Good Fortune,” a flattering profile of the company’s ever-upbeat/super-righteous/generous CEO and public face of the company, Jean Paul DeJoria.

But the folks who made the no-punches-pulled documentary “Fuel,” and the BP oil spill blow-by-blow “The Big Fix,” Joshua and Rebecca Harrell Tickell, made it. So even if they left their skepticism in a storage locker, there’s still some authority to their 86 minute hagiography of the poster mogul for “conscious capitalism.”

As espoused by the man who guided the company he co-founded with hair stylist/innovator Paul Mitchell to industry dominance, and followed up by inventing the concept of high end tequila with Patron, “conscientious capitalism” seems a more apt label.

“Success unshared is failure,” he preaches, and we see him practice what he preaches on TV’s “Shark Tank,” putting a “people, planet, profits” philosophy to work investing in schemes none of the other business “sharks” sees as profitable enough. We can see Mark Cuban et al fighting to not roll their eyes as DeJoria, a working poor half-Greek son raised by a single mom in East L.A., goes almost weepy when he endorses and buys into an Arcadia, Florida inventor’s idea — the “Tree T-Pee” — that saves water for farmers planting seedlings for fruit and nut groves.

Those almost eye-rolls are the closest this relentlessly upbeat portrait comes to questioning anything about this inspiring business icon’s American business myth.

He’s a thrice-married biker, a born salesman and a cheerleader for his company, his clients (hair salons, hair dressers) and his scores of causes. He underwrites Sea Shepherd, the environmental activists who take on Japanese whalers on the high seas.

He’s funding an L.A. get-the-homeless-back-to-work project, Chrysalis. And those are just for starters. He’s not living modestly, by any means. But an awful lot of cash is headed out the door for one cause after another — over 150 charities, according to the film’s narrator, Dan Aykroyd.

“Good Fortune” is laced with celebrity endorsements. Friends like Angelinos Cheech Marin and Danny Trejo, comic Ron White, money-marrying media entrepreneur Arianna Huffington, high school classmate Michelle Phillips (The Mamas and Papas), his kids and those of his late partner, Paul Mitchell, sing his praises.

 

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And DeJoria tells his own story, the up-by-his-bootstraps Navy vet who tried selling encyclopedias and the like before hitting on the business model that made him and Mitchell and their families rich.

Aykroyd, another friend, narrates a film that goes to great effort to contrast its hero with much of American moguldom.  “Unfortunately, most businesses have only one goal.” For DeJoria, who learned about charity from his immigrant mother, that “just make money” thing is just the first step. It’s giving away cash, making positive impacts on the lives of individuals and the planet, that makes him feel good.

The Tickells use recreations of bits of DeJoria’s past and lots of stock footage of the decade that made DeJoria — the big-haired ’80s — to tell his story. He made a promise to his first clients, “Sell our products in your salons and we will never, ever sell them directly” either mail order, in retail big box stores or today online. Paul Mitchell eventually products wiped the floor with the competition.

To be fair, DeJoria comes off as nothing but genuine — pep-talking his “T-Pee” inventor, by phone, through his start-up — apparently, even when the TV (and documentary) cameras aren’t there.  Still, you kind of wish somebody from Aqua-Net (a corporate foe he vanquished) or one of those ex-wives, ANYbody — had appeared on camera to humanize this saint among us.

I mean, Bill and Melinda Gates are giving away fortunes, following in the shoes of Warren Buffett, and before him, Andrew Carnegie. And nobody considers them pony-tailed saints.

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MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements, some language and smoking

Cast: John Paul DeJoria, Dan Aykroyd, Michelle Phillips, Cheech Marin, Paul Watson, Danny Trejo

Credits:Directed by Joshua Tickell, Rebecca Harrell Tickell, script by Johnny O’Hara . A Big Picture Ranch/Paladin release.

Running time: 1:26

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