She Hate Me
By Ari Aster
She Hate me
Directed by Spike Lee
Cast: Anthony Mackie, Kerry Washington, Ellen Barkin, Monica Bellucci, Ossie Davis
She Hate Me, Spike Lee's latest foray into the depths of black male angst, is likely to be remembered as the most abhorrent film of the director's unbalanced career. An excellent example of artistic flaccidity masquerading as "in-your-face" edginess, the film is not so much a movie as an ocean of misjudged decisions, all of which amount to what could justifiably be described as the worst film of the new millennium.
The film follows the inexcusably sincere Jack Armstrong (Anthony Mackie), vice-president of Progeia, a pharmaceutical company on the verge of launching an AIDS vaccine. Two years ago, Jack lost his fiancé Fatima (Kerry Washington) to another woman. Ever since, he has spent lots of time stretching his face into various grimaces, many of which imply such expansive emotions as sadness and incredulity. After blowing the whistle on his colleagues for some financial malfeasance (thus blacklisting him from corporate America), Jack finds himself unemployed and in dire need of some cash. Conveniently, Fatima arrives at his door, side-by-side with her sexy Dominican girlfriend, with a very peculiar proposition: They both want to get pregnant, and, in exchange for Jack's sperm, they're offering $10,000. Jack considers this strange offer, accepts (with hesitation), and soon enough, dozens of foxy lesbians are lining up for a piece of the ever-fertile Jack (for a price, of course).
This is Spike Lee at the apogee of his self-glorification. He has become so angry, so indignant and so unforgiving in his methods, that one would be justified in assuming that Lee has forgotten what happened to inspire such willful animosity in the first place. The film is certainly confrontational, but it lacks the urgency of true necessity. Its bleak cynicism barely conceals an overtly misogynistic disposition; yet, as it proceeds toward its disgustingly callow resolution, Lee dresses the picture in the unassuming guise of sociopolitical commentary. To dismiss my objections as prudish would be a mistake. It is not the content of the film that offends me, but the lack thereof.
The film, aided by Terence Blanchard's somber elevator music, suffers from unexplored subplots, idiotic caricatures (John Turturro's lamentable Mafia don), and the unceasing exploitation of worn clichés and obsolete stereotypes. Anthony Mackie's embarrassingly earnest performance is laughably transparent, and, while the cinematography is quite easy on the eyes (Lee has always had a knack for composition), the film is murder on the ears. Despite the oblique, unimaginative dialogue, the film almost works as self-parody. Too bad, then, that Lee never allows the picture to stray from the self-righteous tone on which he has built a name for himself, even as it veers recklessly from comedy to pathos.
Lesbianism is something of a touchy subject—or at least it used to be. With the recent onslaught of television shows advocating homosexuality as a new “fad,” gays have become fair game for ridicule. Indeed, homophobia has been evident in nearly all of Lee's films (see Summer of Sam for perhaps the most explicit example). Here, we are presented with images of a room full of gorgeous lesbians going slack-jawed over the sight of a sizable penis (?). It's Mr. Lee's contention that lesbians don't really exist; they're just waiting to be slammed against the wall and brought to screaming, howling, rapturous orgasm—by a man, of course.
Everything, it seems, is now worthy of satire, or ripe for satiric aspersion. She Hate Me, however, is more bark than bite (as was the case with his massively derivative Bamboozled). Lee's “lesbians” seem to have emerged from the prototypical male fantasy; instead of being grounded in any sort of reality, they are raised to the level of an ideal (or, more realistically, a wet dream). This, among other things (many other things), would succeed in alienating all the real "dykes" in the audience—if only Lee wasn't so obviously vying for our concern.
In spite of Mr. Lee's ignorance, or arrogance, She Hate Me is far too clinical a study of human frailty (and stupidity) to inspire any true derision in its audience. This, I suspect, would come as a disappointment to Lee. After all, his entire career could be seen as a long line of venerable attempts (not always successful) to piss off certain members of his audience. The films of Spike Lee tend to revel in their own excess; if you don't like it, you're part of the “problem.” What, you might ask, is the problem? I wish I could supply an answer. In this instance, I doubt Lee could either.
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