SHE HATE ME directed by Spike Lee, written by Lee and Michael Genet, produced by Lee, Preston Holmes and Fernando Sulichin, with Anthony Mackie, Kerry Washington, Dania Ramirez, Ellen Barkin, Q-Tip, Jim Brown, John Turturro, Brian Dennehy, Woody Harrelson, Bai Ling, Monica Bellucci, Sarita Choudhury, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lonette McKee and Ossie Davis. 138 minutes. A Mongrel Media release. Opens Friday (August 13). For venues and times, see Movies, page 81. Rating: N Rating: N
Eighteen years ago, the "it" that She's Gotta Have was sex.
Now it's a baby. In She Hate Me, a fired corporate whistle-blower (Anthony Mackie) resorts to providing stud service to sexy lesbians seeking pregnancy. If that sounds disjointed, wait till you get to the part about the Watergate break-in.
Between She's Gotta Have It and She Hate Me - two bookends crying out for a matching shrink's couch - Spike Lee has gone from rising to flickering star. His work hasn't matured so much as become more and more itself.
Gone are the pretensions to genre. It hasn't been possible to identify a Lee film as a romantic comedy, musical or crime thriller since at least Clockers. Instead, the films offer a collage of unfiltered opinions swimming in a flood of Terence Blanchard music. She Hate Me is the most chaotic yet.
The main story follows Jack (Mackie) as greed persuades him to service a steady stream of lesbians at $10,000 a pop. It's so exhausting that even his animated sperm show the strain. But that narrative gets constantly interrupted and sidelined by Lee's stray thoughts on corporate malfeasance, diabetes, what Italians think of blacks, George Bush, AIDS and, most alarmingly, Watergate.
In a baffling cameo, Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dirty Pretty Things) plays Watergate security guard and whistle-blower Frank Wills. Apparently Wills died in poverty, a fact so outrageous that it's forced itself willy-nilly into this movie. The connection to Jack's whistle-blowing is slim but seductively conspiratorial.
Lee's always been a polemicist, not a dramatist. He has more in common with Michael Moore than with Woody Allen, to whom he's often uselessly compared.
Sometimes his polemics have enough force, coherence and pertinence to add up to a great film. In the decade between She's Gotta Have It and Get On The Bus he turned out at least one American masterpiece (Do The Right Thing) plus several groundbreakers.
But sometimes, like Moore, Lee gets so wrapped up in his many arguments that each one loses clarity. Too many of She Hate Me's 138 minutes feel like being trapped with your nutty uncle as he rattles on about the government and the Vatican and fluoride in the water.
And then there are the lesbians.
On two separate occasions, one of Lee's lesbians looks at Jack's hammer and asks, "Is that thing gonna hurt?" I'm no expert, but Tristan Taormino is. She's the writer and sex activist who consulted on the film and gave it her lesbian stamp of approval. But if one scene featuring a roomful of video-ho fantasy dykes followed by another full of demanding amazon butches qualifies as accurate representation, then I must have missed a seminar somewhere.
And if lesbians are so afraid of penetration, who's buying Taormino's book The Ultimate Guide To Anal Sex For Women?
There are five or six movies that could be made about the subjects Lee takes on here. She Hate Me isn't even one of them.