Spike Lee isn’t easily pigeonholed. He’s directed gritty crime films like Clockers and 25th Hour, dramas like Mo’ Better Blues and He Got Game and lesser-known documentaries like 4 Little Girls and Jim Brown All American. Lee is arguably best-known for his own brand of comedy, comedy that sears the laughs with scenes of graphic sex and violence as in Do the Right Thing. He broke out in 1986 with the urban sex farce, She’s Gotta Have It. Now, nearly 20 years later, Lee debuts another in She Hate Me, a story about a young-exec-turned-corporate-whistleblower subsequently pink-slipped who resorts to knocking up lesbians to pay his bills.
Jack Armstrong (Anthony Mackie) is young and accomplished. At 30, the black Harvard grad has risen to an upper-level management position in a major pharmaceutical company and helms what may be their most high-profile and lucrative project: AIDS vaccine research.
But his success hasn’t trickled into his home life. He lives in a luxury apartment filled with plenty of Afrocentric art, but lacks a wife and family.
After a workplace tragedy, Jack discovers his corporation’s practices are less than ethical. He reports his findings to the authorities — and he’s rewarded with a security escort from his office and frozen assets.
Finding himself unemployable, Jack considers a proposal from his now-lesbian ex-fiancee Fatima. She wants him to work as a stud for lesbians — including herself and her girlfriend — for $10,000 dollars a pop.
In She Hate Me, Jack is a sexual superhero with brains. His powers are such that he’s able to move his clientele to sighing and squirming pleasure as he inseminates them en masse at “pregnancy parties” hosted by Fatima; his performances are enhanced with Red Bull and Viagra.
While Lee’s signature visuals and the magnificent music of his veteran composer, jazz trumpeter Terence Blanchard, remain effective, the director continues to succumb to his chronic flaw — overpacking a film with polemics. Lee clumsily assembles sequences of Jack’s corporate, family, romantic and procreative life with references to big business villains like Enron. Jack’s boss looks like notorious insider trader Martha Stewart.
Despite the sex, She Hate Me is a fable that juxtaposes corporate ethics with one man’s moral conflicts. The moral is as simple as it is old: Good wins over evil.
Playing at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main, Royal Oak). Call 248-263-2111.
James Keith La Croix writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].