As a film set on November 4, 1968 during the election eve before Tricky Dick took the White House, the film naturally has the sort of lame ass mainstream Hollywood white liberal message that one has come to expect for a political retarded hypocritical celebrities like Beatty who seem to believe that getting involved in shallow and superficial dogooder activism will somehow exonerate them for their sinful lives of debauched hedonism and greed, yet thankfully its political message is, at least artistically speaking, secondary to its sardonic assault on the counterculture zeitgeist and sexual liberation. Indeed, instead of blaming the Manson Family for the death of free love and hippie (anti)values like the mainstream media, the film marks the election of Richard Nixon as the date when finally began to give up on their unhinged utopian delusions, though thankfully it also rips vogue bohemian mores to shreds. Somewhat curiously, it should also be noted that one of the most sympathetic characters of the film is a middle-aged conservative businessman who wants to trade in his whore of a wife for a much younger and fresher piece of high maintenance female flesh.
When George decides to pay Jill a visit, she predictably tells him that their long disintegrating relationship is over and then sternly demands to know how many women he cheated on her with since she believes it will her “help” because she’ll then know for sure that he’s “incapable of love.” After stuttering for a brief moment, George gets the gall to triumphantly boast to Jacki, “Let’s face it. I fucked them all. I mean, that’s what I do. That’s why I went to beauty school. I mean, they’re always there, and […] I don’t know what I’m apologizing for. So sometimes I fuck them […] It makes me feel like I’m gonna live forever […] I don’t have any regrets […]maybe that means I don’t love them. Maybe it means I don’t love you, I don’t know. Nobody’s gonna tell me I don’t like them very much.” While George does not seem particularly heartbroken about his breakup with Jill, he unfortunately does indeed seem to love Jackie. When George randomly shows up at Jackie’s house, she begs him to leave and then decides to get in her car and drive away when he refuses. In what is indubitably one of the weakest and most lackluster yet strangely passionate and heartwarming chase scenes in cinema history, George speeds after Jackie on his motorbike until the two eventually symbolically end up at a dead-end on a small cliff overlooking her neighborhood. While George immediately emotionally declares his love and devotion for Jackie and explains how he will do anything for her, she tells him in a sincerely somber fashion that “It’s too late” because she is leaving very soon to go to Acapulco with Lester and that they plan to be married since the businessman has finally left Felicia. At this point, George begs while on the verge of tears, “Please, honey. I don’t trust anybody but you,” but Jackie simply embraces him for a second while crying and then quickly leaves to go meet Lester back at her house. In the end in what is a somewhat surprisingly melancholic lovesick conclusion, George stands on the edge of the cliff overlooking Jackie's house and watches as his great love leaves with Lester. Of course, if one considers that George was apparently partly based off of real-life Manson Family victim Jay Sebring, the conclusion of the film seems all the gloomier and disheartening.
It should also be noted that the film comes full circle in the end and concludes with same exact Beach Boys song that is begins with. Of course, considering the merry optimistic lyrics of “Wouldn't It Be Nice,” the image of George staring into what seems to be eternity as he bitterly confronts his harsh reality of his midlife despair seems all the more poignant, as he will never be able to achieve what these seemingly simple and old-fashioned desires express: “Wouldn't it be nice if we were older, Then we wouldn't have to wait so long…And wouldn't it be nice to live together, In the kind of world where we belong […]Wouldn't it be nice if we could wake up, In the morning when the day is new…And after having spent the day together, Hold each other close the whole night through […]We could be married, And then we'd be happy.” Indeed, in the end, George finally comes to realize that his life has reached its peak and that the best he can hope for is that he will be able to maintain his position as a virtual bourgeois gigolo for another decade or so before his handsomeness evaporates and his sexual potency fizzles.
Not surprisingly, Beatty did not just exploit his then-girlfriend as he was prone to suavely harass all of the women he worked with, including sensitive virgins, or as revealed in Biskind’s Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America (2010) in regard to the Hollywood star's behavior on the Shampoo set, “Carrie Fisher had her own problems […] She remembered that as the producer, Beatty would do whatever he wanted with her, ask her to try on this bra, that bra, no bra. She felt he was just messing with her, treating her like a doll. Even though she felt objectified, she found it hard to be offended because Beatty’s manner was so playful. He was having fun, if she wasn’t. Beatty teased her for being a virgin in front of the crew and cast, embarrassing her, making her feel like a moron. She recalled, ‘He offered to relieve me of the huge burden of my virginity. Four times.’” Although I am not a professional psychologist, the above description of Beatty suggests that he might suffer from some serious form of narcissistic personality disorder, but of course that is ultimately what makes him so intriguing and what makes Shampoo especially enthralling. After all, while it is obvious to anyone that has a brain and is not a social justice warrior that Beatty's insufferably lame pseudo-altruistic leftism activism was nothing more than moral posturing and a patently pathetic publicity stunt to obscure the fact that he is one of the most supremely self-centered and narcissistic leading men of cinema history, the film is a rare look at the real man, whose womanizing goes hand-in-hand with his covert misogyny. As Shampoo reveals, not all woman-haters are virginal wimps that jerk off to Sapphic Hentai in their grandmother's basement, as there is a somewhat rarer pedigree of misogynist of the alpha-stud oriented sort that has no problem exploiting female weaknesses and insecurities just so that he can get to that special warm and wet place in between her legs.