She Hate Me (2004) / Drama-Comedy
MPAA Rated: R for strong and graphic sexuality, nudity, language and a scene of violence
Running Time: 140 min.
Cast: Anthony Mackie, Kerry Washington, Ellen Barkin, Dania Ramirez, Q-Tip, Woody Harrelson, Monica Bellucci, Jim Brown, Reynaldo Rosales, Brian Dennehy, Jamel Debbouze, Ling Bai
Director: Spike Lee
Screenplay: Michael Genet
Review published August 2 2004
She Hate Me is two stories in one, and only one is good. The good one is about corporate greed, inspired by recent white-collar misdeeds and scandals (like Enron) that sees the filchers get away with millions while everyone else loses their shirt. Losing one's pants takes up the second storyline, a split narrative that showcases Spike Lee (The 25th Hour, He Got Game) at his absolute worst as an auteur. What powerful social commentary he had going is all but completely diffused in a needless and incredibly distasteful excursion into depravity, with Lee completely overreaching in an attempt at turning the notions of love and family on their ear. It's just far too much to swallow, as thematic resonance spins wildly out of control, until it ultimately shatters, and rather than try to put things back together again, Spike decides to make this mess into an omelet, dress it up as best he can, and serve it up hoping we won't know the difference.
Anthony Mackie (8 Mile) stars as successful businessman, Jack Armstrong, who has made wealth and success in drug corporation that has been manufacturing Progeia, a potential cure for AIDS. However, Jack discovers that the company is up to no good when a colleague kills himself, and he stumbles across evidence that the company is trying to push forward a phony drug while taking steps to secure assets before it all crumbles. Jack decides to blow the whistle on this, but in so doing, makes himself a pariah to the company, while his own assets and job opportunities dry up. Have no fear, as Jack's former fiancé, Fatima (Kerry Washington, Lift), a woman who left to be with another woman, has come through with a scheme that would keep jack from losing it all. She and her partner want to have a baby, Jack's baby, and they are willing to pay well for it. Not only this, but Fatima brings in many other lesbians wanting a child of their own, as Jack has all of the traits they wish to pass on in their children. Jack becomes a stud for hire, but all the while the feeling of becoming a sex object gnaws at him.
Without a doubt, She Hate Me is the worst film in Spike Lee's very respectable career as a director, and if not for an occasionally insightful moment here and there, it would probably be considered one of the worst films of 2004. It has its merits, but when buried under a ton of misguided aspirations and sensationalistic miscalculations, they are hard to remember. My personal belief is that Lee, finally in a political climate where he is able to show lesbian sex (he dabbled with it in his first film, She's Gotta Have It), grew a perpetual hard-on that wouldn't subside for the duration of the filming, pushing forward his ultimate kinky fantasy of having sex with as many hot women as possible without having to take any responsibility for his actions, and on top of it, get paid handsomely for it. The good stuff, aka the corporate sleaze angle, is completely derailed as Lee gets his jollies like a man in heat.
To waste is a fine performance by Mackie, a great score by Terrence Blanchard (although perhaps too somber for a film this absurd), and about a dozen or so witty moments by Lee. Hopefully Spike has shot his sex-manic wad with this one, so we don't have to endure any more of his lesbian orgy fantasies in the future. Next time you get a yen, rent a porno, Spike, or the "she" of the title won't be the only one who hate you.
©2004 Vince Leo