Sunday, January 8, 2023

She Hate Me

Movie Name:
She Hate Me
Year of Release: 2004
Director: Spike Lee
Starring: Anthony Mackie, Kerry Washington, Ellen Barkin, Dania Ramirez, Woody Harrelson, Monica Bellucci, John Turturro, Jim Brown, Lonette McKee, Brian Dennehy, Bai Ling, Ossie Davis, Jamel Debbouze, Chiwetel Ejiofor, David Bennent, Isiah Washington Jr., Joie Lee, Sarita Choudhury, Savannah Haske, Chris Tardio, Rick Aiello, Alison Folland, Paula Jai Parker
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 3
Watch it on Amazon Prime

Synopsis and Review
Director Spike Lee followed the stupendous "The 25th Hour" with a not so interesting film, one filled with many ideas, but where the restraint and his unique and unapologetic points of view on topics of race, relationships and this time around, corporate malfeasance seem to have been poorly rendered. The film follows the story of Jack Armstrong, a young and successful man, currently a VP for a pharmaceutical/biotech company that is about to uncover a powerful new drug which will revolutionize HIV/AIDS treatment. Things start to spiral out of control when Dr. Herman Schiller, the main scientist at this company and a friend of Jack's commits suicide, leaving behind documentation which attests to the company's corruption. He is soon falsely accused of securities fraud, and fired from his position, alongside all of his assets getting frozen. His boss in the meantime also sabotages whatever other opportunities he applies for, by painting him in a negative light to everyone who will listen in the industry. An unexpected revenue source comes forth when his ex-fiancée Fatima shows up with her partner Alex in tow. Fatima we soon learn, cancelled their pending nuptials when she discovered she wanted to pursue relationships with women (and their break up was a painful one when Jack found Fatima with another woman). She and Alex both want to get pregnant at the same time, and instead of going down the road of artificial insemination, want to pay him 10K to get the job done. Fatima soon proposes this as a reliable hustle for Jack, where he impregnates lesbians for 10K each, giving up his parental rights, and herself taking a small commission. While he initially goes along with it, particularly since he still harbors feelings for her, things start getting complicated soon enough.
"She Hate Me" is a film brimming with ideas, and as is typical of Spike Lee, with interestingly specific episodes which typically add further dimension to the story he's narrating (they all come back to sustain the main narrative thread he is putting forth). The problem this time around, is the fact that the film tries to tackle white collar corruption and profiteering, mixed with gender roles and sexual dynamics, relationship and familial issues, on top of further discussing issues related to expected roles and race in society. All very lofty ambitions, and sadly just a melange of ideas and threads that don't necessarily merge in a very successful manner. There was (and there is) indeed something to be said about the corporate corruption thread, that is briefly illustrated in the film, and perfectly embodied by Woody Harrelson. However, as the story evolves and also becomes a take on sexual roles, and the whole aspect of the central character actually impregnating lesbian women, that's where the quality and even taste aspect of the narrative starts going in a downward spiral. Even if that thread of the narrative is being positioned as a satire, it mostly feels like a clichéd, heteronormative view of what homosexuality actually is (aka, as if lesbian women spend their time waiting for a heterosexual man to impregnate them, as a means to avoid artificial insemination). This aspect of the narrative, married with Jack's unresolved relationship with Fatima ends up taking away much of the actual credibility the narrative tries to establish. And while people's sexuality is a richly layered topic, here it mostly comes across as something that Fatima needed to experience once again from having sex with Jack, to suddenly realize she was actually something else. Ultimately, there's a lot of diverse threads happening in this feature, and they simply don't successfully work together. Most characters have absolutely no dimension (John Turturro's character is one of them), and while the cast is populated with terrific actors, including Anthony Mackie and Kerry Washington, the film simply doesn't make a good showcase for them. Ellen Barking, Jim Brown and Woody Harrelson end up walking with their reputation unscathed. It's a miss from a very talented film maker.