|Page 2 of 6:||     |
|Index||56 reviews in total|
Spike Lee's "Jungle Fever" is an eye-opening introspection into the
limits of that so-called melting pot sold by America as the epitome of
tolerance and universalism... yet contradicted by the statistics and
all the racial tension that prevailed in the early 90's. As a social
commentary, the movie raises many important issues about interracial
relationships in a less politically lauded tone than the iconic "Do The
Right Thing", which is a wise choice for a movie mostly centered on
Through Stevie Wonder's titular song, "Jungle Fever" refers to the diagnosis of that strange mutual attraction between two persons from different races. The term strongly implies the idea of a relationship against Nature's law, if not a sickness, a deviation. And the central couple to deviate is Flipper, an ambitious architect, and Angie, his new secretary. He's Black, she's Italian. He lives in Harlem, she's from Benston Hurst, he's married with one daughter, she has three men, and two too many: her father (Frank Vincent), and her two brothers. Angie's doom is that she's young and single enough to be the overprotected sister, but mature enough to take care of the house. Angie dates Paulie, a shy and affable storekeeper (John Turturro) in a relationship that doesn't really ring true. Whatever is obviously lacking, Angie would find it in Flipper.
Spike Lee's direction patiently depicts the growing attraction between Flipper and Angie. Interestingly, the first door to a growing intimacy is opened when they break the taboo of races and talk about it in the most casual way. And after that, we stop looking at the difference of skins, and pay more attention to the contents of their hearts. So they have sex, and no sex scene is sugarcoated in Spike Lee's film, not overdone either, but what is Spike Lee's point? To insist that it's only sexual like in adultery, or because of the 'Jungle Fever'? Whatever theory we believe in, the relationship would be wrong, but Lee cares less about pleasing us ethically than inviting us to examine the aftermath of that pivotal night where a Black man and a Italian (Caucasian) woman did it.
And the way the relationship evolves could be perceived as bad writing on the surface, while it's only extremely well-written 'bad reactions'. For one thing, the adultery is less condemned than its interracial nature. Flipper's wife, Drew (Lonette McKee) is from a mixed couple, and always feared to be only one step in Flipper's attraction process toward light skinned women, until he'd finally go with a plain Caucasian. Flipper's denial might be sincere but then why did he ask his bosses to only hire African American women? Did he know he would automatically fall in love with a Caucasian? The ambiguity remains and is displayed from a different perspective during a dinner with Flipper's parents played by the veteran actors Ossie Davis, as a fanatic preacher, and Ruby Dee, a loving mother and devoted wife.
Flipper's father reminds Angie that white women always sensed an exciting mix of fear and fascination toward Black men and this is what ultimately tarnished the purity of the race, by providing so many mixed ethnicities. While succeeding on the field of disturbing realism, this scene allows us to understand Flipper's background and the amount of pressure he and Angie would endure, Angie, almost beaten to death by her 'dishonored' father, is then coldly compared to a whore. The couple wouldn't survive this last display of hatred and rejection, and in a very thought-provoking approach from Spike Lee, Flipper breaks up with Angie with a very calculated arrogance by pretending it has never been love. In a way, he joined the cause of those who pretend it's all about black men seeing that white is right women-wise, and white girls seeing blacks as sexual supermen, Jungle Fever again.
Flipper uses an obvious carapace to hide his own weaknesses. In many intimate scenes, he's the one lying beneath the shadow, while Angie's face shines under the window's light. She's genuinely in love with him while Flipper opts for a more convenient pragmatism. Again, no one is right or wrong, Flipper has many responsibilities and Angie's simply in need of a disinterested love, she's the victim of this relationship, as the one who lost the most, her 'honor', her boyfriend, and the man for which she took the risk to lose everything. The counterpoint of this failed relationship is Paulie's tender and more optimistic romance. Paulie who also grew up with an authoritarian fatherly figure (Anthonny Quinn) and endures the racist pressure of his entourage, but finally decides to date Ordyl, the woman who's always so nice to her, regardless of any skin consideration.
But Flipper and Angie's relationship is less the core than the starting point of the analytic journey into the myths that surround sex, part-pride, part-doom, total pressure, marked by a great deal of hypocrisy and suspicion, due to the weight of history. Here comes the most poignant subplot involving the crack addiction of Flipper's brother, Gator, Samuel L. Jackson in an Oscar worthy performance. Gator's descent into self-destruction is the emotional pillar of the film allowing us to put Flipper's romance into perspective. There's more to worry about for the Black community, which in quest of its identity is torn between two unacceptable realities: degradation or obedience to the white man rules. Is 'Jungle Fever' the first step of that assimilation? The ending is a father's cry of despair for never seeing his daughter falling in that trap anyway.
"Jungle Fever" works less as a romance than as realistic depiction of the racial myths poisoning the society. Through many secondary characters with an impressive level of depth and believability, we realize that most of them defines themselves through their ethnicity as pure survival instinct. When the world is a jungle, it can only inspire self-preservation.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Powerful Message Movie, but I did not like the ending
Spike Lee has a history of producing pointed, politically evocative films that often spark controversy. Jungle Fever is no different. The film is multi-faceted and does not follow one story line but follows the lives of all kinds of different people who are related to each other or know each other somehow.
Spike Lee plays Flipper Purify, a black architect who has a nice family and a good job living in Harlem. He loves to his family and seems to have his like made for him. Annabella Sciorra plays Angie Tucci, and Italian-American who is recently hired as Flipper's secretary against Flipper's wishes of hiring a white person when he wanted someone black to be his secretary. She comes from working class Bensonhurst, in Brooklyn and is living with his father and two brothers. She is under-appreciated for all the work she does around the house.
Now here is where the major conflict of the film comes into play: The two people have an affair. Nothing may have happened with their personal lives but then they told a friend or two and then their friends tell a friend or two and you know.
The two families react differently. The father of Angie attacks her violently. The wife of Flipper throws all of her husband's stuff out of the window. Both families make a scene where their neighborhoods know what happen. What I like about this part of the movie is that there are people that do not approve of the relationship but not all of their friends and family reject them. The movie shows a relatively open environment but with the standard racism prevalent in New York City.
Now if you think this is a movie and that people in New York are not this racist, race is still an issue in New York City. People will react exactly the way they do in this movie to the mere mention of interracial dating. And while this movie is older now not much has changed in the terms of racial issues.
The supporting cast does an excellent job. The two notable stars are Samuel L. Jackson and Halle Berry. Jackson plays Flipper's drug addicted brother. Halle Berry plays his girlfriend. This pair does an excellent job. They are gritty and they are excellent in their parts. They are extremely convincing. I knew some people who had similar problems that acted a lot like these two characters.
Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee will astound you in their parts. Ossie Davis has an incredible monologue that is just too much for mainstream film, and his monologue makes a couple of interesting points. Again what this movie talks about is too much for mainstream films. Ossie plays The Good Reverend Doctor Purify, the father of Flipper. He calls him The Good Reverend Doctor. The Good Reverend Doctor is extremely religious and I emphasize the word extreme. Ruby Dee is a caring but naïve mother who doesn't quite understand what Flipper's brother is doing to hurt him. The final scene with the parents and the brother will shock the hell out of you. The scene will also show you some of the extreme nature some people of faith take their religion.
John Turturro does a standout job as the ex-boyfriend of Angie who is stuck in a bad job around a group of pricks that are racist, mean and very provincial. Turturro plays a decent and laid back man who is a nice guy but is in a bad situation (like a lot of people I guess) Turturro does an excellent job. The people that play his 'friends' Michael Badalucco, (who plays a real a**hole) Joe D'Onofrio and others do a great job in their parts. That is an excellent aspect of the movie as well.
Legendary actor Anthony Quinn has an excellent role as well, but he should have been in the movie more. That is the thing about this movie: there are a lot of people in this movie that are fairly famous but have a small part. Tim Robbins and Brad Dourif are in this movie for a short time as well.
SPOILER (rest of review)
One of the best scenes in the movie is when Wesley Snipes looks for his mother's TV set after Samuel L. Jackson took it. What ensues is Snipes going through the crime-ridden streets of New York City and ending up in the Bronx in the 'Taj Mahal.' It is an amazing look into a world that few of us in middle class America know about. However I know that if Snipes were that well dressed going through the areas that he did he would have been accosted.
I also did not like Lee's message. Lee essentially said that interracial marriages were results of curiosity and hinted strongly that two people of different races could not fall in love. I wish Lee would be more optimistic. I do realize however that interracial dating is still not accepted in supposedly progressive America. This country has along way to go.
The political conversation John Turturro has with the people that hang out in the ice cream shop is quite disturbing. The conversations they have are quite disturbing but they give you an insight into American culture that few American films have. They discuss quite a few topics and Lee manages to produce a realistic conversation without the conversation becoming stiff or preachy.
It is amazing to see Samuel L. Jackson and Halle Berry, in what are perhaps their breakthrough roles. They both do great jobs and they show their talents as thespians. Also the opening credits are quite unique, an interesting way of showing the people involved in the film. Also listen for Stevie Wonder's hit Jungle Fever, where the phrase was coined in popular culture.
This is a great movie. There are some interesting points this movie brings up. Lee talks about the things many other films do not talk about. Lee manages to write produce and star in a movie that is not great but definitely is very good and something I would recommend. All around a good, disturbing, revealing and funny movie. Here's to Spike Lee.
JUNGLE FEVER, in my opinion, is an excellent piece of African-American cinema! I thought that Gator (Samuel L. Jackson) really needed to grow up and get a life. The Good Reverend Doctor Purify (Ossie Davis) really scared me when he got angry. When Mike (Frank Vincent) assaulted Gloria (Annabella Sciorra) after finding out what happened between her and Flipper (Wesley Snipes), my mouth dropped open and I gasped. After Drew (Lonnette McKee) got mad, I wanted to cry. Still, this was a very good movie. Everything about this movie was good, especially the costumes and performances. In conclusion, I highly recommend this movie. You're in for a good time, I guarantee it!
Regardless of your views on interracial marriage, you have got admit
this is a gem of filmmaking. Spike Lee really gave us his all with this
movie. Terrific story that will make you cry. Cause behind all the
silly hip hop hilarity, you really do feel bad for Angie. Hahahahaha.
Annabella Sciorra is awesome (perhaps part of my love for this movie
partially stems from my love for her and her movies; and she comes off
as a "bro"-sayer in real life). Wesley Snipes is a great actor. He
comes off with full force in his portrayal of Flipper Purify a man who
cheats on his wife with Angie (Sciorra). The story is filled with
laughs, but it's almost like most movies about banishment that we've
seen set in Denmark, Israel. In a way this is a modern movie about
banishment from your community, which Angie suffers.
Fun little fact: Tim Dog didn't invent lying insults. It was the "Friends"-watching (Ok that's a stretch cause "Friends" didn't exist yet in 1991) anti-"Seinfeld" white folks. When they mock Angie for wearing Jordans (whether what they say about her wearing Jordans with Flipper was true or it was an insult; remains a mystery; in reality according to people who've told me, Sciorra is the opposite of the white girl she plays here -- cause Italians, at Sciorra's type are not white, much like Hispanics -- Tucci is Visigothic in origin, so she is indeed white). "Friends"-watching Whites have done it, not blacks.
Anyways, not my favorite, but I give it 8, cause it's not really the best, but it blew me away, that much I can't deny. I'm Hispanic btw :D
Before it was socially acceptable and desirable to be with black
men,Jungle Fever explores this once taboo topic. Being attracted to
black men myself, I find this movie thrilling and exciting. All of the
beautiful black actors, and their struggles to share their love with
If you have ever been as attracted to black guys as me or ever wondered what it would be like to take one fully into you and your heart, this is the film for you. It is a candid look at society and the racism we all face.
Spike Lee at his finest and Wesley Snipes is such a physical specimen,its hard not to watch. Again, I highly recommend this movie. Watch with your significant other.
The first appeal for me was the DVD cover, a black hand holding a white
hand, this spoke more to me about love than a couple kissing would. But
the DVD was selling for $2 in a B grade movie pile, which initially put
me off, it occurred to me later after watching this brilliant gem how
racist our society is that this could be selling for $2.
Having said all this the movie isn't without it's flaws, because of it's obvious low budget, which makes some things look a little fake and therefore affects the realism of the scene, but the irony is it was probably difficult for a black filmmaker like Spike Lee to get funding, so I can't blame him for these flaws. (I wasn't too keen on opening scene, but glad I persevered)
Many race movies (possibly made by white people) have simplistic themes, such as "whites don't like blacks" of course sometimes things are that simple and those movies need to be made too, but seeing a movie made by someone black meant that complexities are raised that would perhaps never occur to white people, eg problems between black people because they perceive another being too light or paradoxically too black. Every relationship is poisoned with paranoia because no one knows if they are genuinely interested in the other or whether their unconscious agenda is what is making them go with someone of a different colour , ie is a black man who wants to date a white woman or light coloured black woman trying to go up in the world, or the reverse does a white person dating a black person just doing it to be "exotic" or rebel. Even the seemingly societally acceptable relationships eg black with black maybe have an agenda too, maybe they are merely trying to keep the sisterhood/brotherhood together. In the end race has got everyone so mixed up and poisoned that no one really can know if their love is truly genuine or just a reaction to the racist society we live in. This movie gave me a powerful and sad insight into what it must be like to be a black person, in a world where people are classified by colour (although that of course is the other irony that is raised in this movie because if someone's parent is white and the other black what colour do you classify them?) Not that white people don't have their own inter race dating issues, e.g. upper class dates lower class, Irish dates English, Protestant vs Catholic, etc, but it's not the same. Of course Spike Lee is just one black filmmaker so I don't know if other black people agree with him or not, this is why there should be more filmmakers of different races/sex etc, so we get more than one "inside" perspective. Malcolm X is another movie that affected me deeply, and gave me a different but also powerful insight, more polished movie actually due to obvious bigger budget, but anyway that's a topic for another day.
There are a number of themes in this movie, so many in fact that I am just touching the surface, drugs, religion, poverty, and I haven't even talked about the Italian part of it, but surprisingly it all gels and does not seem disjointed, in fact all the themes flow together. There are also issues about what "well meaning" white people do and how that can actually endanger a black person (e.g. the police scene-this scene made me cry), and that even if a white person/policeman etc is not racist, the problem is black people have to be on their guard because they don't know which ones will be.
SPOILER: A few people have mentioned that this movie is against inter racial relationships saying stick to your own but I'm not sure it is, after all the point is made that very few of the characters are "completely" black anyway. And in fact the main characters wife is mixed race. It is clear to me though that Wesley Snipes true love was his wife, although there is some true feeling between him and the Italian girl most of it is curiosity and lust, so yes he should have stayed with his "black" wife (who is actually half white anyway!). However the movie shows there is a real possibility of real and lasting love in the budding romance between Italian Paulie and the black lady because the first thing he says to her when he asks her out is "I find you intelligent" before he tells her he also finds her attractive. So his main attraction is based on her mind, not looks (so therefore not her colour) Actually it occurred to me it is very rare that a man ever says to a woman in a movie that he wants to date her because she is intelligent. It's interesting how often people are attracted to different races, because they look "exotic", I have pondered if this is essentially racist, because surely attraction should come from personality not the colour of someone's skin, but perhaps it is no less shallow than be attracted to someone because they are pretty. I think also though perceived difference can spark attraction because you grow and become more tolerant from learning about another culture, and dating between races is the ultimate way to do that. On the other hand people you may initially be turned on by the colour of someone's skin, but once you get to know them if there is true compatibility there you really don't notice this after a while because they just become a person that you know you really love because they are a kindred spirit. Actually the irony is the most disappointing thing you can discover from loving someone of a different race is that actually they are just a human being like you and therefore not so excitingly different or exotic after all!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Jungle Fever focuses on two characters from different ethnic backgrounds who fall prey to forbidden lust/love. Although this is considered a romantic film with racial themes, I believe it was executed poorly. Granted, the main characters endured some bigotry from both eyes of the black/white spectrum due to their unorthodox relationship, however their situation made them both more unlikable to begin with. To explain, I think Flip( Wesley Snipes' character)was an asshole for cheating on his wife. There is no excuse for that. As for Angie,( Annabella Sciorra's character)she was a b!tc# for "succumbing to the devil and tasting the forbidden fruit" as the good reverend( Flip's dad) would say. I mean, She knew he was married and had a kid. Though without discrimination, they were both unlikable. All in all, it was a decent movie, but I did not care much for the main characters at all. They were too flawed, ordinary and despicable. However, Paulie(played by John Turturro) and Orin(Tyra Ferrell) were far more believable and likable characters. Although they only had about 10-15 minutes of screen time, they shared more chemistry than the main characters throughout the whole film. Minor SPOILERS, At least, Paulie had the balls to stick up for the girl he liked despite the hate he endured from his friends and father while walking to her house.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As I was reading through some of the other member reviews here, I
decided to respond to arthurpewty's review. At quick glance, and in
large part because of the title of the film, this appears to be about
Black men wanting White women and White women wanting Black men. And if
that's what you think this film is primarily about, then the way the
film ends, and the subplot involving the crack-addicted son will be
confusing. I actually think that the more definitive message of this
film -- one that is explored through a racial theme -- is that lots of
families (of all colors) are pretty screwed up. If you look at the film
from that perspective, it becomes an ensemble film, rather than a
"starring" film, and it explores how screwed up multiple families are,
all tied together in some way.
There was a time when I thought that Wesley Snipes would be the reigning Black male actor for some time. This film was my introduction to him, and I was impressed. Then along came "White Men Can't Jump" and "Passenger 57", and "Murder At 1600" and several other films that I thought were cementing his future. And then he got way too wrapped up in martial arts and such, and his career fizzled. Unfortunately, he didn't learn to stay diverse in the roles he selected, and so we lost a very actor.
This was also my introduction to Annabella Sciorra, whom I also enjoyed very much in "What Dreams May Come".
As an actor, Spike Lee is nearly irrelevant in this film, but he deserves high praise for his direction. This is probably the only time I have ever been unimpressed with Ossie Davis; he seemed rather wooden here as the reverend who is Wesley's Snipe's father. On the other hand, I rather enjoyed Ruby Dee's performance. Samuel L. Jackson is not an actor I admire, but he was rather good here. I'm not much of a fan of John Turturro, but his performance here was very good (and this may have been the first time I ever really noticed him as an actor). Why did Anthony Quinn take this role? It was beneath him.
This is not a perfect film, and it is -- now -- perhaps a tad dated (although the sentiments expressed here still exist in many places by many people). Highly recommended.
Flipper Purify (Wesley Snipes) is a black architect with growing
recognition, aiming at becoming partner at his current firm. Married
with child his wife Drew (Lonette McKee) and daughter Vera (Veronica
Webb) are seemingly the apple of his eye. When given an assisrant of
Italian roots, Angie Tucci (Annabella Sciorra), Flipper initially
objects on racial grounds, opting for a black-skinned subordinate.
These reservations soon come to pass, when working nights together they
soon uncover a growing fascination with each other, despite their
differing skin colours. This soon turns into a romance, which crosses
racial boundaries, causing a stir in both neighbourhoods and making
them outcasts from their families...
American film in general still has racial issues. Seeing a mixed couple on screen is a strangely rare occurrence, despite an increase in Afroamerican actors on the front-line. Even when employed the norm is having non-mixed couples, as if to avoid inciting unpopular furore among both sides of the divide. The exceptions to the norm are few and far between, surprisingly most often introduced by non-American directors. Even less widespread is such mixed couples not being the core of the story told - a notable exception is "Things We Lost In the Fire" by Dane Susanne Bier, where Halle Berry and David Duchovny create a loving couple with race issues never even implied.
This speaks volume why "Jungle Fever" and the issues touched remain poignantly important till this day - the concept of mixed race pairs is so innerly counter-cultural to the American society at large, even more so than in Europe or light years behind the formerly racial South Africa. Spike Lee therefore located a subject mine for a classic movie, which would stay in memory for its breakthrough content. However Spike Lee wouldn't be himself, if he hadn't resorted to some tricks of trade, flashing audiences with subplots, which do nothing but distort the core theme (Flipper's flailing career or an absolutely detrimental story about his brother the narcomaniac). Meanwhile the racial issues themselves get dragged down with overly preachy monologues or dialogues, finally delivering little in terms of a satisfying conclusion. Seemingly afraid of going the mile Spike Lee finally pulls up and offers a screeching happy ending, but somewhere within this feverish mixed racial love the context becomes diluted. Already permeating with an unmistakable style, patchy story lines and venturing camera shots, Spike Lee's trademarks came to fruition, but unfortunately with a movie being a far cry from "Do the Right Thing" or "The 25th Hour", proving to be a director renowned for a very uneven film career.
Jungle Fever was a disappointing follow-up to what I consider Spike
Lee's two finest films, the celebrated Do The Right Thing and the
subtle, underrated Mo' Better Blues, and it turned Lee overnight from
one of the most critically acclaimed and promising directors of his
generation into the butt of everyone's "has-been" jokes. With Jungle
Fever the hype was too big, the expectations too high, and the ideas
too complex to make a solid movie. The highly stylized camera work with
its vivid colors, the extroverted acting and the prototypical
characters - all of which worked very well for the morality tale of Do
The Right Thing - feel clumsy and distracting in Jungle Fever which is
a much more realistic story at heart.
That doesn't mean Jungle Fever is a bad movie; Spike Lee has some very interesting things to say about racism in modern culture, and it makes for a very thought provoking and even eye-opening experience. Interestingly, while it's often mentioned as the ultimate 'interracial romance' film, this film doesn't really deal with romance; rather, it's about sex, about social norms and family relationships, and about two people who use each other to fulfill their rebellious fantasies and rise against society. Lee refuses to use clichés, or to turn it into a sappy 'love beats all' fairy tale.
The big problem is, Lee has so much to say, a lot of it is completely lost. The most obvious example is Samuel L. Johnson's character, which is supposed to say something about family and society, but because it fits so loosely into the rest of the film - and because Jackson's over-the-top acting makes it hard to take him seriously - it feels very forced and out of place. Jackson is just one of several excellent character actors - Frank Vincent, Anthony Quinn, Ossie Davis and others - who deliver performances so intense that it's hard to focus on any of them.
The only actors who show any kind of subtlety are the leads - Wesley Snipes and Annabella Sciorra (also Spike Lee himself and the wonderful John Turturro, but their roles are quite small), and their story is the heart of the movie, as well as the only aspect of it to really challenge conventions and say something original. The problem is that once you peel everything else away, you're left with a very thin central story, that just can't hold a film together.
|Page 2 of 6:||     |
|Plot summary||Plot synopsis||Ratings|
|Awards||External reviews||Parents Guide|
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|