She Hate Me
One of the great disappointments of contemporary cinema is that Spike Lee has never matured as a writer to match his skill as director. While She Hate Me (2004), Lee's fifteenth dramatic feature, is an enthusiastic and ambitious effort touched by Lee's prolific talent for visual composition and montage, it also rates as one Lee's silliest, messiest, and most harebrained movies to date. Anthony Mackie stars as Jack, a 30-year old vice president of a powerful pharmaceuticals corporation under investigation for securities fraud. When Jack reports suspicious activity to an SEC hotline, he's fired and his assets are frozen well, nearly all of his assets. At the prompting of his ex-fiancee Fatima (Kerry Washington), Jack reluctantly makes ends meet by making fronts meet: selling (and delivering) his promising genetic missionaries at a premium to a bevy of fertile lesbians aching for babies. In addition to the obvious jabs at Enron-style corporate malfeasance, Lee and co-writer Michael Genet (who appears in the movie as Jack's brother Jamal) make dubious stabs at a number of other issues, like sexual objectification, personal ethics, domestic difficulties, the perils of whistleblowing (during which Lee launches a truly curious hagiography of pivotal Watergate bit-player Frank Mills), and, of course, a few half-hearted claims of racism, all of which depend more on shared assumptions than rhetorical or dramatic persuasion. Bursting with this bleary social commentary, She Hate Me spurts dull-edged polemic like Michael Moore with Tourette's Syndrome. If it weren't for Terence Blanchard's dirge-like score and Mackie's brooding performance, She Hate Me might have made a passable, even promising, screwball comedy, but Lee the director takes his subject too seriously for sanity to ponder. Like the movie's animated armies of sperm (yes, you read that correctly), the film sprays in too many directions, and Lee seems to lack the wherewithal to pull all of his ideas into a coherent package (even with 138 minutes at his disposal; Lee says in his commentary that the narrative is unfocused by design), settling instead for an impotent, bewildering, tacked-on happy ending that makes ciphers out of the film's earlier, gratuitous bloviating as well as its poorly constructed dramatic contrivances. That said, Lee's work is rarely boring, and most of She Hate Me is engaging as a curiosity, with some fine moments of humor that manage to escape the taint (and occasionally betray the purpose) of Lee's didacticism. Nearly all of the performances are strong, from an ensemble that includes Ellen Barkin, Monica Bellucci, Jim Brown, Ossie Davis, Brian Dennehy, Woody Harrelson, Ling Bai, Lonette McKee, Paula Jai Parker, Q-Tip, Dania Ramirez, John Turturro, Sarita Choudhury, and, of course, Joie Lee. Columbia TriStar presents She Hate Me in a good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Lee offers his thoughts on a disappointingly dull commentary track. The disc also includes seven deleted scenes and a 10-minute behind-the-scenes featurette. Trailers, keep-case.