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Two bumbling store clerks inadvertently erase the footage from all of the tapes in their video rental store. In order to keep the business running, they re-shoot every film in the store with their own camera, with a budget of zero dollars.
Harvard-educated biotech executive John Henry Jack Armstrong gets fired when he informs on his bosses, launching an investigation into their business dealings by the Securities & Exchange Commission. Branded a whistle-blower and therefore unemployable, Jack desperately needs to make a living. When his former girlfriend Fatima, a high powered businesswoman--and now a lesbian--offers him cash to impregnate her and her new girlfriend Alex, Jack is persuaded by the chance to make easy money. Word spreads and soon Jack is in the baby-making business at $10,000 a try. Lesbians with a desire for motherhood and the cash to spare are lining up to seek his services. But, between the attempts by his former employers to frame him for security fraud and his dubious fathering activities, Jack finds his life, all at once, becoming very complicated. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
There's an old premise that the best storytelling is shown, not told. In terms of the latest Spike Lee Joint, 'She Hate Me,' no truer words have ever been uttered.
Jack Armstrong (Anthony Mackie) is a young vice-president of a pharmaceutical company on the verge of unveiling a vaccine for HIV, pending FDA approval. Through the nefarious actions of greedy senior executives, Jack finds himself pegged as the scapegoat for this drug that ultimately will not be approved and the subsequent tumble in company stock. Think Enron, Worldcom, et al. but Spike won't let you think for yourself, as he keeps their specific names prominently displayed throughout the movie with overt and pointed references. Margo (Ellen Barkin) who looked eerily like Martha Stewart only further illustrates this point.
In a scenario reminiscent of 'Enemy of the State,' Jack loses access to all of his finances and is 'forced' to consider alternative means of generating income. After an unexpected visit by his former fiancée he accepts her offer to become father of her child her child and her lesbian lover's child.
$10,000 for 2 successful impregnations is the deal and Jack 'reluctantly' accepts. The next thing you know, he has lesbian women knocking at his door daily, five at a time, offering $10,000 each per impregnation.
If you've ever seen a 'Spike Lee Joint,' you're aware of the common threads woven into all of his movies. You come to expect certain elements and even certain actors. The fact that the supporting cast included such venerable thespians as Ossie Davis (Judge Buchanon), John Turturro (Don Angelo), Lonette McKee (Lottie) and Joie Lee (Gloria), while featuring a fabulous soundtrack by Terence Blanchard should be a surprise to no one. The fact that those actors, combined with Monica Belucci (Simona), Brian Dennehy (Chairman Church) and Woody Harrelson (Powell) didn't amount to a great movie should be tremendously surprising and disappointing.
From the opening credits, Spike Lee's signature is everywhere. From the rich combination of jazz and orchestral sensibilities in the underlying music bed that set the tone and timbre of the movie, you know Spike Lee is here. From the blatant opening reference and disdain of President George Bush; you knew the direction this vehicle headed and who was at the wheel.
According to Lee, 'The story of 'She Hate Me' is very simple. It's about sex, greed, money and politics.'
Yes and no. It's about all of those things, but it's far from being simple.
The message to be delivered was loud and clear. Unfortunately, this message was one of at least 75 different and varied lessons 'She Hate Me' would offer to its viewers. Even more unfortunately, Spike chose oration for each and every 'message' in sermonizing character dialogue. Either Spike no longer respects his viewers enough to allow them to 'figure it out on their own' or that verbally bludgeoning them with his viewpoints (all 75 of them) is now considered a more viable storytelling alternative.
The story of 'She Hate Me' is ostensibly about Jack Armstrong and his attempt at getting out of one sticky situation by entering another. In fact, it's not. This movie is more about the relationships and realities of women in love with one-another. This movie is at its best when Spike demonstrates that regardless of gender or orientation; insecurity and jealousy are universal. The desires of family and fidelity are also universal, irrespective of familial unit structure. Most importantly, the need to be accepted unconditionally is a definitive trait in all of us. Those arguably were the most important messages in this movie and Lee is right on the mark.
Where 'She Hate Me' specifically missteps is that the story is from the point of view of an unsympathetic character. When Jack first started his new 'business' he supposedly needed money for the moment to counterbalance his frozen assets and continuing financial responsibilities. Yet 18 women, 19 children and some $180,000 later, neither Spike Lee, co-writer Michael Genet nor character Jack himself offers a reason as to why he continued such dangerous and fruitless indiscretions, for so long.
The characters and relationships most enjoyable in this movie were fleeting in nature; components remarkably and conspicuously absent after introduction for most of the film. Jack's relationship with his father Geronimo (played by Jim Brown) was engaging. The sight of football Hall-of-Famer Jim Brown playing a character fighting diabetes and to save his marriage simultaneously was moving. The newly evolving relationship of Geronimo with his son in the midst of the chaos around him was another meaningful subplot; one of many that Lee didn't revisit until nearly the end of the movie.
A monologue by Don Angelo (John Turturro) gave us another glimpse of Turturro's acting brilliance. John Turturro is a future Academy Award winner; it's just a shame this won't be the role that does it for him.
If there is an explanation as to why some sub-stories and sub-plots were not covered as deeply as others it would be the fact that there are so many characters, all of which feel compelled to tell their life story. In fact, there are just too many people to keep up with, too many to care about in the end. It's like juggling fiery bowling pins, where too much concentration on one leads to really bad consequences.
Visually, 'She Hate Me' pays homage to films of the 1970's, with its simplistic camera angles devoid of lighting tricks or steady-cams. The knowing use of varying hues and blurred frames was quite appealing stylistically, even cool. This, combined with great musical cues featuring tenor saxophone melodies was a nice tip of the fedora to the Film Noir genre.
'She Hate Me' is raw and gritty in its imagery, remarkable in its musicality and at times sensual in its delivery but ultimately not a good movie.
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