She Hate Me
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Spike Lee
scr Michael Genet, Spike Lee
with Anthony Mackie, Kerry Washington, Dania Ramirez, Q-Tip, Jim Brown, Lonette McKee, Ellen Barkin, Woody Harrelson, Monica Bellucci, John Turturro, Jamel Debbouze, Brian Dennehy, Isiah Whitlock, Ossie Davis, Bai Ling, Chiwetel Ejiofor
release US 30.Jul.04, UK 24.Sep.04
04/US 2h18

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She Hate Me Spike Lee is still angry and ranting! That's the good news. But this film is so all over the place that he drowns out his own argument and sabotages the story.

Jack (Mackie) is a high-flier in a pharmaceutical firm who's sacked when he blows the whistle on his boss' (Harrelson) insider trading. Jack's assets are frozen as part of the investigation, and in a moment of financial weakness he accepts a large sum of money to impregnate his ex-fiancee (Washington) ... and her girlfriend (Ramirez). Eighteen pregnant lesbians later, he starts to have second thoughts, but by then his latest client, daughter (Bellucci) of a mob boss (Turturro), has caught the eye of FBI agents investigating the other case.

Is there a single issue Lee doesn't address here? Besides using every genre (rom-com, courtroom thriller, family drama, historical revisionism, political satire) he jams the film with statements about injustice, institutional racism and civil rights; business ethics, legal wrangling and organised crime; romance, sexuality and morality; diabetes, Aids and fertility. It's just too much! Not to mention the fact that it's probably physically impossible, even for a stud like Jack, to impregnate five women a night, three nights in a row.

This overlong, rambling approach is tempered by extremely strong performances from the astonishing cast (newcomer Mackie is excellent), blending gifted newcomers with superb veterans. It also helps that the issues are important ones, and Lee is adept enough to grapple with them meaningfully. He's a superb director who can cut through the scene in jarringly clever ways, especially when working with an exceptional cinematographer like Matthew Libatique. So why is Terence Blanchard's mellow jazz score so mopey?

Surely the point is to show how black people, even hugely successful ones, are often the ones caught in society's corrupt web. But this comes through more strongly in the Watergate flashbacks (with Ejiofor as 'whistleblower' Frank Wills) than in the sprawling central plot. And it must be noted that very lesbian in the film has satisfying porn-style sex with a man, while the romantic plot is a pure misogynistic fantasy. If this is meant to be degrading and provocative, then maybe Lee has succeeded after all.

cert 15 themes, language, sex, violence 21.Jul.04

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2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall