She Hate Me

The point of Spike Lee’s “She Hate Me” seems to be that Spike Lee has made a movie called “She Hate Me.” It has a dozen different trains of thought — everything from homosexuality to politics to race relations to corporate malfeasance — but none of them ever emerges to become what the movie is “about.” As far as I can tell, it’s “about” Spike Lee being bombastic and provocative without any particular target.

The protagonist is Jack Armstrong (Anthony Mackie), a bigshot at a biotech company that is on the verge of creating an AIDS vaccine when it is thrown into chaos by charges of illegal activity. The whistleblower is Jack himself, which his bosses (played by Ellen Barkin and Woody Harrelson, in a particularly, um, wooden performance) repay by making him their scapegoat, even though he had actually done nothing wrong. An investigation begins, and Jack’s assets are frozen by the government — no small thing, considering he’s been living the lifestyle of a fabulously wealthy New York City bachelor.

It is during this time of financial hardship that Jack is approached by his ex-girlfriend Fatima (Kerry Washington), now a lesbian living with her girlfriend Alex (Dania Ramirez). Fatima and Alex want the thrill of being pregnant together, so they’re offering Jack $5,000 each to impregnate them. He’s still in love with Fatima, so fathering her child the, uh, old-fashioned way brings complicated emotions with it. But he’s also desperate for income. A deal is struck.

Fatima, entrepreneur that she is, soon brings a parade of lesbians to Jack’s door, each offering $10,000 (minus Fatima’s finder’s fee) for Jack to have sex with them and make them into mothers. They come in groups of six or eight and ask Jack questions to put their minds at ease. At one point, they make him strip naked so they can see what they’re getting. One of them actually says, “Now you know what it’s like to be a sexual object,” a powerful reminder that when it comes to social commentary, Lee and “subtlety” are not on speaking terms.

The story of a man paid to impregnate lesbians is certainly fraught with possibilities, both comic and otherwise, and the parts of the film that focus on it are better than the rest. But then Lee tries to inject too many other elements. All the business with Jack’s company’s Enron-like dealings serve no apparent purpose other than to show that Lee is ANGRY! about SOMETHING! but I don’t know what. Greedy corporations? OK, fine. So what? Being angry about that is old news. Make a statement about it, shed some light on it, put a twist on it, make jokes about it. Just DO something with it, ANYTHING.

Even within the pregnant-lesbians thread, Lee goes off on tiresome tangents, including a subplot about Jack’s connection with a Mafia family via their lesbian daughter, and some kitchen-sink melodrama regarding Fatima and Alex’s relationship.

It becomes absurdly political in the final act, with Jack testifying before Congress about his former employers, and then it becomes just plain absurd, with a resolution between Jack and the lesbians that is utterly preposterous. Is Lee satirizing something? Is this all a metaphor for something? Or is it just a heavy-handed mess, full of non-sequiturs (like George W. Bush’s face on a three-dollar bill during the opening credits)? My vote is for the latter.

D+ (2 hrs., 18 min.; R, pervasive harsh profanity, very strong nudity and sexuality, some graphic childbirth scenes.)