Ben Sanderson, an alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter who lost everything because of his drinking, arrives in Las Vegas to drink himself to death. There, he meets and forms an uneasy friendship and non-interference pact with prostitute Sera.
A successful and married black man contemplates having an affair with a white girl from work. He's quite rightly worried that the racial difference would make an already taboo relationship even worse. Written by
Murray Chapman <email@example.com>
It Was a Very Good Year
Words and Music by Ervin Drake
Courtesy of Lindabet Music Corp., ASCAP
All rights administered by The Songwriters Guild of America
Performed by Frank Sinatra
Courtesy of Reprise Records
by arrangement with Warner Special Products See more »
Just by the poster alone, audiences in 1991 were intrigued by Spike Lee's new offering. Just what was it that he had to say about interracial liaisons? The film was scripted specifically for Wesley Snipes as a vehicle for his career. The same year he appeared in 'New Jack City' by Mario Van Peebles, and had come from being beaten to pulp in the back alley of Spike Lee's 'Mo Better Blues' with Denzel Washington by Samuel L. Jackson. The 90's was Wesley Snipes and Denzel Washington's decade, and Spike Lee had capitalised on this to lift their careers to their rightful stature. Wesley plays a middle class interior designer in a professional company whom he feels does not appreciate his input. This is highlighted when he is given an Italian-American secretary who does not carry the same baggage as he does. The irony comes when, after stating that he wants an African-American secretary, he engages in hot sex with her in the office in the same way that Michael Douglas did with Glenn Close in 'Fatal Attraction' and with Sharon Stone in 'Basic Instinct' (fresh from appearing with Forest Whitaker in 'Diary of a Hitman'). I guess Spike Lee was saying that the black man should have the opportunity to ride the white American woman in the same way that Michael Douglas has. In that sense, the interracial liaison worked. But from the argument of probability, it was an unlikely scenario. Everything happened way too quick, and his prejudices of non-African American women no longer carried any weight. Yes, he was curious. We all are. But the juxtaposition of his curiousity and his prejudice appeared unlikely. In Act 2, we explore the relationship between Wesley Snipes and this Italian-American woman. There are shades of repercussions from 'Do the Right Thing' where Spike Lee is almost speaking out about the interaction between the African American and Italian American communities. It becomes less of a race thing than it does a cultural thing, and you can almost be forgiven for feeling that Spike is saying something about the Italian-American community rather than just the white community in general. In Act 3, Wesley's marriage breaks down, he splits up with the Italian-American woman, and decides that the most important thing in his life is his daughter. A much too unsatisfying ending for anybody's tastes, and despite all the adversity that they had to face, one felt that it would be good if they stuck it out together. The theme of 'Jungle Fever' alone does not maintain your interest throughout the film. Like Alfred Hitchcock, Spike Lee enlists the talents of other great artistes such as Stevie Wonder for the score, Anthony Quinn to play the bigot father, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee to play Snipes's parents, Halle Berry to play the drug addict, and last but not least, the neglected Samuel L. Jackson who gives a cracking performance as a crack head. To look at Samuel L. Jackson you would never guess that he was a university graduate with a slur. He has performed Shakespeare on stage in New York, and a demonstration of his pure acting talent is seen in his portrayal in this film of Snipes's crack head brother. There is nothing commercial and token about what Jackson contributes to this role. He is overlooked as pure talent, but he offers nothing but pure talent. The film, in terms of its concept, stands alone as a self contained film, but the true star of the film is Samuel L. Jackson. Even though Spike wrote the script specifically for Snipes, Melvin Van Peebles does more justice to Snipes by casting him as Nino Brown in 'New Jack City'. The same way that 'Malcolm X' was a vehicle for Denzel Washington at the hand of Spike Lee, 'New Jack City' was a vehicle for Wesley Snipes at the hand of Melvin Van Peebles. Although Samuel L. Jackson did not receive the same level of recognition and exposure as Denzel and Wesley for his contribution to Spike's films, he would have to wait until Quentin Tarantino came along to cast him as the philosophical gangster in 'Pulp Fiction'.
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