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Friday, August 13, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

Spike Lee doesn't do the right thing with "She Hate Me"

Seattle Times movie critic

Somewhere, lurking deep within the mess that is Spike Lee's would-be satire "She Hate Me," there might be an idea for a good movie. But Lee has crammed his film so full of statements (starting with the opening credits, in which George W. Bush is pictured on a three-dollar bill), stereotypes and off-the-wall plot devices, most viewers will give up in exhaustion, staggering out at the end of its much-too-long running time unenlightened and unamused.

At first, the movie appears to be focused on the promising topic of white-collar crime. Jack Armstrong (Anthony Mackie) gets fired from his high-level job at a biotech firm, after he catches his bosses shredding documents and reports them to an ethics hotline. (They've just been denied FDA approval for an AIDS vaccine, and one of their scientists has jumped out a window.)

Then off we go in another direction entirely: Jack, faced with financial difficulty, embarks on a new career as a stud, impregnating lesbians (starting with his ex-girlfriend) for profit and Viagra-aided fun. The whistleblowing plot gets forgotten for a while, until we go lurching back into it for the film's jumbled final act, which involves a Senate hearing, a Mafia don (John Turturro), lots of speechifying, lots of scenes of women in childbirth, and a "happy" ending that's a mixture of male fantasy and complete nonsense.

Movie review


Showtimes and trailer

*
"She Hate Me," with Anthony Mackie, Kerry Washington, Ellen Barkin, Monica Bellucci, Jim Brown, Lonette McKee, John Turturro. Directed by Spike Lee, from a screenplay by Michael Genet and Lee. 138 minutes. Rated R for strong graphic sexuality/nudity, language and a scene of violence. Meridian.

It's a very fine line between satire and offensiveness, and Lee steps right over it with the film's middle section, in which he depicts a variety of lesbians as baby-hungry hot mamas eager to have sex with Jack — after they've viewed him naked and approved of his equipment. Lee, so fearless with explorations of racial issues (his searing "Do the Right Thing" remains one of the great movies of the '90s), has a much spottier record on gender stereotypes: The women in his movies tend to be one-note sultry temptresses or saintly mothers. You have to admire his willingness to dive right into a plotline so fraught with peril, but really, this is ridiculous.

Here, as a parade of lesbians (most of whom look like Victoria's Secret models) find lusty satisfaction with Jack, some bizarre messages begin to take shape. In the world of "She Hate Me," gay women just need to find the right man to achieve sexual satisfaction, and women in general (especially all gay women) are insecure, controlling neurotics obsessed with having babies at whatever cost. (Outside of this subplot, only two significant female characters appear in the film. One is Jack's controlling, neurotic boss. The other is his saintly mother.) If this is satire, it misses by a mile; it's neither funny nor smart, and you watch the various couplings with incredulity that eventually turns into disbelief.

A few good performances shine through, particularly Kerry Washington as the snappy ex-girlfriend, but mostly it's all a mess. As Jack, Mackie seems lost in a fog, and you can't blame him — what on earth is he supposed to be playing? A victim? A hero? A martyr? A sexual superman? An actor trapped in a bad movie?

Lee should know better — he's too talented to be serving up this kind of silliness, and so are his actors.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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