She Hate Me Reviews
Spike Lee's She Hate Me is an obscure parody of racial stereotypes that - like most of Lee's films - won't be for everyone. By now, I'm still not sure if it's for me. It exists in a farcical world where the stars don't shine. If you take this movie seriously, gear up for a painful experience that explores feats of the unnecessary and oddly fascinating.
Spike Lee imbues She Hate Me with political, sexual, and social excesses. If you have seen Lee's more polemical films (not Inside Man!) you will understand what I mean when I regard him as a director with a stubborn but telling chip on his shoulder. He does not play his material safely; he goes all out. I commend the director's guts, his incoherent but engaging logic, that is as entertaining as it is arguable.
She Hate Me, well, it's definitely an "arguable" film. Most critics have denounced the film for its ludicrous ideas and tasteless plot. They are right. But surely a director like Lee did not do this by fault. If he has, god bless him. When I watched She Hate Me, I was overwhelmed by Lee and what he was doing. He is taking characters that are one-dimensional on the surface and putting them in a form of parody where he can say something more third-dimensional. Their ostensible bad acting and arbitrary actions is part of the film's joy and personal detachment.
This is not an emotional story but a film that continues to bludgeon Lee's pugnacious voice over and over. Yes, the film is tough to bear and its third-quarter escalates into some preposterous conclusion that is mostly annoying and vainglorious. Lee attempts to attack American economics, politics, and gender through a story that is dangerously oblique.
Here's the plot: John Armstrong (Anthony Mackie) is terminated from his lucrative job at a biotechnology firm, falsely accused of security fraud by his superior (Woody Harrelson). He retreats to his home where his ex-fiancée Fatima (Kerry Washington) is planning to have a baby with her partner Alex (Dania Ramirez), who also wants one. They goad John to be their sperm donor and he then partakes in a business with Fatima in which John fathers the child of various lesbian single women. Uh huh.
I can at least say I have not really seen a story like this before. "She Hate Me" is based off a nickname of an XFL football player Rod Smart who called himself "He Hate Me." The title was meant to imply that Smart's opponent would hate him when Smart defeated him. Lee's choice to use this title is arbitrary at best because the film is much about a man who could bear no such sign on his back. He is defeated and is in a state where he is "castrated" by women who have an ironic authority over him and thus seem more manly too. He engages in intercourse regularly, has large nether parts, but is constantly objectified by the women who control him. "How does it feel to be an object?" a lesbian customer asks. I can see what Lee is getting at. I think...
Problems arose when I found that too much of the film was grounded in dated history. Lee tries to metaphorically relate John to Frank Willis, the man who captured the 5 men breaking in at Watergate and received no raise as a result. Lee does not say much but ridicule Nixon through what is parody but an unnecessary parody. It always seems Spike Lee does this. He has to take every American edifice and scramble it. Thus, She Hate Me runs for over two hours but it seems too short, ridiculous, and arbitrary for what Lee is pursuing.
She Hate Me also involves the suicide of a German colleague, court room drama, gratuitous sex, and the mafia. John Turturro makes an appearance as a mob boss trying to deflect his organization's illegal actions on John's outlandish sperm business. This is way too much. The film covers all 5 of New York City's boroughs, so I could not help but wonder why Lee did not focus more on Post 9/11 undertones to calm his subject matter down (he did that in his earlier 25th Hour - a better film).
I suppose Lee wants to expands his material but usually he is just inflating it. She Hate Me I do not hate. I do not love it either. It crosses that line where I can enjoy the film for its ambition but also disvalue its outrageous historical claims by wagging my disapproving finger.