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SHE HATE ME

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Anthony Mackie, Kerry Washington, Ellen Barkin, Monica Bellucci, Jim Brown, Brian Dennehy, Woody Harrelson, Bai Ling, Q-Tip, Diana Ramirez, John Turturro
Director: Spike Lee
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Columbia Tri Star
Features: See Review
Length: 138 Minutes
Release Date: February 1, 2005

“Survival makes a person do things they know in their heart is wrong.”

Film ***

What She Hate Me demonstrates more than any other film Spike Lee has done is this; Lee is one filmmaker who isn’t afraid to touch on any aspect of our living culture. And when I say anything…I mean ANYTHING. Though I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s one of his strongest films, She Hate Me is a provocative and effective one nonetheless.

The film has enough story material for about three or four movies, the heart of the Lee’s film is a specific social commentary on what the presence of money will force a man to do in the most desperate of situations. The idea of our lives powered by money is conveyed in the striking opening credits of the film, which preside over an animated dollar bill floating like an American flag.

Jack Armstrong (Anthony Mackie) is an honest and dedicated vice president of a major pharmaceutical firm. Jack’s entire world is rocked following the surprise suicide of one of the company’s paid scientists, and one of his closest friends, who leaped to his death right from an office window. The suicide was possibly brought on by the FDA’s decision to reject the company’s application for an AIDS vaccination.

Before long, Jack stumbles into a room where papers are being shredded, and his suspicions begin to rise. His boss, Margo Chadwick (Ellen Barkin), along with company CEO, Leland Powell (Woody Harrelson), advise nothing more than for Jack to look the other way. After long contemplating, Jack makes a crucial call to an ethics hotline, which gets him fired from his job and his bank accounts frozen.  

With his financial stability on thin ice, Jack gets an unexpected knock at the door from his ex-fiancée, Fatima (Kerry Washington), who’s now a lesbian and in a happy relationship with Alex (Diana Ramirez). The two make an outrageous offer to Jack; to impregnate the both of them for $10,000 a pop. After a period of deliberating, Jack signs a contract and away he goes.

But it doesn’t stop there, Fatima returns with an even bigger business deal. Turns out, an army of Fatima’s friends, all lesbians, want to get pregnant, too. They will pay the same amount each, thus ensuring Jack a stable cash flow, almost as much as he was making in the corporate office.

Before long, Jack’s private business starts to catch some attention in the least expected places. An encounter with a woman named Simona (Monica Bellucci), the daughter of an infamous boss (John Turturro), leads to a confrontation with the reputed crime figure. When Jack is seen talking to him, it catches the attention of no less than the FBI.

Like all of his films, Spike Lee has biting commentary lurking beneath the surface, and She Hate Me is no exception. Although the lesbian business proposition isn’t to be taken seriously, what Spike is saying is that when a person is striped of their future in the work place and their financial stability is on the fringes, he or she will stoop to the most ludicrous act to retain it. Jack is clearly not proud of his actions, but he needs the money.

She Hate Me is a movie of three lengthy acts. The second of which, where the sexual politics take hold, does grab your attention, but its what proceeds it and what follows it that make the film a stronger piece. Lee’s look at corporation politics, where Jack becomes a whistle blower, and the closing act involving his testimony before a senate committee in Washington, emerge as the bolder portions of the film, with the kind of striking moments that only Spike Lee can deliver.

What struck me the most in the movie is a scene where Jack has a talk with his diabetic father (Jim Brown). The father reveals to Jack a similarity between him and Frank Wills, the security guard who helped to expose the Watergate break in. With Jack blowing the whistle at his firm, his father sees him as the modern day Frank Wills, with total disregard for what it may have done for his future, because it was the right thing to do.

Another strong element in the film is the performance by newcomer Anthony Mackie. Mackie has enjoyed some small supporting work in such notable films in 8 Mile and The Manchurian Candidate. He can currently be seen in Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby. In this film, Mackie holds everything together, even if the film goes in multiple directions. His performance is among the strongest breakthrough acting roles I’ve ever seen.

Though it may easily turn off some people, She Hate Me is a bold exercise from one of our most important cinematic voices. He dares us to confront the explicit issues at hand, whether we want to or not. With its view on corporate politics, sexual politics, and even political politics, She Hate Me is a most audacious and engaging film experience.

Video ***

This is a well envisioned film from Spike Lee, a visual artist, and the disc provided by Columbia Tri Star is a mostly well done anamorphic presentation. The visuals range from bright lighted and colored scenes to that of darker in tone. Some scenes present some slight grain and softness, but nothing that entirely distracts from the presentation as a whole.

Audio ****

Spike Lee truly appreciates the sound in his movies, and the 5.1 mix provided for this movie further demonstrates this point. Even in key dialogue sequences, such as an office meeting, technical gimmicks are acquired and thus the range of the channels is strong and dynamic as can be, and the surround sound quality is fantastic. Music is a strong key factor, as demonstrated in yet another glorious score by frequent Lee collaborator Terence Blanchard. A quite marvelous handling from CTS.

Features ***

Although it’s a light listing of extras, what is included on the disc is worthy all the way. First off, there is an always informative commentary track by Spike Lee, as well as a behind the scenes documentary, seven deleted scenes, and a trailer gallery.

Summary:

She Hate Me has a lot to reveal to us in its story, and isn’t afraid to talk about any of it, which is an element about writer/director Spike Lee that I have always admired. It’s recommended to fans of him as well as fans of extreme thought provoking cinema.

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