`She Hate Me' is a mess, but it means well

September 24, 2004|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Spike Lee's She Hate Me contains the seeds of a half-dozen good, thought-provoking movies, in genres ranging from sexual spoof and political satire to corporate drama and morality play. That's the good news.

The bad news is that She Hate Me is a scattershot mess, a film that seems to have no idea where it's going and offers little compelling reason for audiences to try to figure it out. It's as though Lee, frustrated by today's political and cultural climate, sees this as his one shot at grabbing his audience's attention and shaking some sense into them. Considering Lee's been making movies for 18 years and is widely regarded as one of his generation's most influential filmmakers, that's a strange sort of panic for him to feel.

Anthony Mackie stars as Jack Armstrong, a successful biotech executive who gets wind of some corporate wrongdoing and obeys the moral imperative to do what he can to stop it. But his whistleblowing only succeeds in getting him fired, his bank account frozen and his moral compass called into question by his former associates and, perhaps most disturbingly, by himself.

Armstrong is struggling to make ends meet when his ex-wife, Fatima (Kerry Washington), shows up. Now involved in a lesbian relationship, Fatima has a proposal for him: impregnate her and her partner and a bunch of her friends at $10,000 a pop, and who needs a corporate office?

Armstrong makes a good living off his virility. But then two things make his life even more difficult: one of his clients (Monica Bellucci) turns out to be the daughter of a mob boss (John Turturro) who desperately doesn't want his little girl to get hurt; and the police (not to mention the tabloids) get wind of his fathering exploits.

Lee, who's clearly had it up to here with modern-day American hypocrisy, vents all over the place. There's some good work done in She Hate Me, especially by Washington, who's wonderfully confident and headstrong as Fatima, and Turturro, who clearly relishes the chance to play the Godfather. But Lee's reckless approach to the whole endeavor is too obtrusive to ignore. It's like he threw a whole plateful of cinematic spaghetti against the wall, just to see how much sticks. Unfortunately, it all did, which makes not only a mess, but wastes a whole lot of perfectly good spaghetti.

She Hate Me

Starring Anthony Mackie, Kerry Washington

Directed by Spike Lee

Rated R (graphic sexuality/nudity, language, violence)

Released by Sony Pictures Classics

Time 138 minutes

Sun Score *1/2

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