George is the poor innocent guy stunning rich women exploit for thrills and then promptly dump. Jill, Jackie, and Felicia are visibly weighing their options and waiting for the best offer, while Lester, although adulterous and money-grubbing, is somewhat sympathetic and humane.
Juxtaposed with the questionable career choices Towne has made over the last couple of decades, Shampoo shines like a bright gem. After 1996's Mission: Impossible, and 2000's Mission: Impossible II, one can't help but wonder whether his rewrite of Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps (1935) which he also will be directing marks a return to more intimate projects such as 1973's The Last Detail, or furthers his spiralling descent into Hollywood blockbuster hell.
AN AFTERNOON WITH ROBERT TOWNE (includes a screening of Shampoo), Sat/3, 4 p.m., Sundance Kabuki