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Lee's 'She Hate Me': No Love

By Desson Thomson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 20, 2004; Page WE39

FIRST THOUGHT upon watching "She Hate Me": Director and co-writer Spike Lee has completely cut off the lifeline to reality. He's floating out there with Major Tom.

Second thought: There's no way Lee made this movie without realizing how horrible it would seem to almost anyone with a pulse, let alone a brain. Is there a method to this madness? Is this a trap? Is Spike even smarter and savvier than we all thought?


Kerry Washington, center, Dania Ramirez and Paula Jai Parker in Spike Lee's "She Hate Me." (David Lee -- Sony Pictures Classics)

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Third thought: What would that smart and savvy thing behind the movie be? Even if this movie is telling us about societal stereotypes; or about how society is intrinsically racist; or about the way poisonous attitudes about black men, lesbians and other hot-button topics lurk beneath the smooth surface of our politically correct veneer; even if any of these ideas are the big eureka of this movie . . . so what? That's all he's got?

Fourth thought: This is Ground Control to Spike Lee. We'll never forget you.

Let's run over the sequence of activity. To call it "the plot" would be wrong. A handsome young man, Jack (Anthony Mackie), works for a biotech company that conducts AIDS research. He gets an inkling that something's terribly wrong when a long-serving scientist, after urging him to get married and have kids, takes a one-way flight to the sidewalk. Jack soon learns (from the dead man's convenient videotape detailing his misgivings) the company's getting a sizable contract for an AIDS vaccine it knows to be a fake. Jack gets on the horn with the Securities and Exchange Commission and promptly gets fired.

Unemployed, Jack accepts a proposition to be a sperm donor for two lesbians, including his former girlfriend Fatima (Kerry Washington). They're so happy with his performance, they decide to turn him into a one-gun enterprise. Jack rakes in the cash, servicing a long line of lesbians (including Sarita Choudhury from "Mississippi Masala" and Monica Bellucci), all of whom writhe and moan in ecstasy. Amazing how easy it is to un-persuade a sexual persuasion. By the way, this section of the movie also contains a semi-animated sequence of sperms meeting their eggs with Jack's head superimposed -- you get the idea.

Before you can say "where's the nearest exit?" the movie's teetering off in even more directions. We meet Don Angelo Bonasera (Lee's perennial Italian-shtick artist, John Turturro), a "Mafioso type" who happens to be the powerful father of Bellucci's Simona and wants to check out who just serviced his precious little girl. We also have to sit through a flashback of the Watergate burglary, in which security guard Frank Wills (Chiwetel Ejiofor) catches the perpetrators but gets no credit, it is implied, because he's African American. Next thing you know, our whistle-blowing, lesbian-converting stud muffin is telling his story about corporate malfeasance, Frank Capra style, at a Senate hearing. Oh yeah, and he gets back together with Fatima, after she accepts his offer to be her husband as well as the father of her children.

The movie, written by Lee and Michael Genet, is clearly some kind of satire. But like his similarly frustrating "Bamboozled," it's a satire with flow charts, footnotes and a riding crop. Lee seems to be trying to examine our own silent but deadly attitudes toward race as if he's our spiritual and aggressive radon inspector. But it's sheer agony to sit through, and not for the reasons Lee would relish. It's just bad. Lee's so much better when he discovers satire in drama, as in "Do the Right Thing" and "She's Gotta Have It," rather than the other way around. And if you are waiting for drama that isn't About Something Else, you'd be wise to wait for Lee's next project.

SHE HATE ME (R, 138 minutes) -- Contains a Spike Lee movie. Also, sexual scenes, obscenity and violence. At Cineplex Odeon Shirlington and Landmark's E Street Cinema.


© 2004 The Washington Post Company