Part social satire, part goofball daydream, Spike Lee’s completely undisciplined if irresistibly titled She Hate Me strives manfully to put the “high” in high concept: Echt buppie and Harvard MBA Jack Armstrong (Anthony Mackie) is effectively punished for being a corporate whistle-blower by having to service a lesbian harem at $10,000 a fuck.
He blew who? She hate what? When his dwarfish mentor takes a swan dive out the office window, Armstrong—named for the “all-American boy” of 1940s radio—learns the pharmaceutical giant that employs him is planning to make billions with a fake cure for AIDS. Jack drops a dime, loses his job, and finds his bank account frozen. Then fate takes a hand. Jack’s ex Fatima (Kerry Washington) and her equally foxy girlfriend, Alex (Dania Ramirez), materialize one evening at his mega-pad with a startling proposition. They want to get pregnant the old-fashioned way, and they’ll pay him to do the deed. “But you’re lesbians,” Jack gasps. “We’re businesswomen,” they answer in unison.
Indeed, clever Fatima is soon pimping reluctant Jack to a long line of mainly lipstick lezzies, and he’s popping Viagra to keep up with the demand. Sweetback, Super Fly, and Stagolee have nothing on this dude. Not only is Lee’s super-stud able to handle (and at least temporarily reprogram) five or six ladies a night, but his super stuff is apparently guaranteed to knock them up every time. “Your sperm just met my egg,” coos one satisfied customer, a Mafia princess played by a jetlagged Monica Bellucci.
As written by Lee and Michael Genet, She Hate Me is clearly a comedy—and it’s difficult to imagine a black comedian short of Bill Cosby who couldn’t take this sucker all the way to the bank. But director Lee throws cold water on his own overheated fantasy scenario by having Mackie mope through every scene. What’s fascinating is how She Hate Me perversely trumps its own perversity. Rather than an animated insert illustrating the fertilization process, Lee should have commissioned one dramatizing the struggle between his id and superego.
Ankle-chained to the ball of Jack’s depression, She Hate Me lurches from cartoonish didacticism to glum slapstick. Lee interpolates Jack’s story with the tale of Watergate guard Frank Wills, whose life was ruined when he discovered and reported the world-historic burglary of the Democratic headquarters. To further keep the proceedings from getting overly frisky, Lee burdens his hero with a nightmare set of incompatible yet married parents who might be identified as La Castrata (Lonette McKee) and El Castrato (Jim Brown!).
With two on-screen births, a congressional investigation, an anti-Bush digression, and many paintings of boxer Joe Louis, She Hate Me doesn’t lack for Lee’s customary turbulence. But from title to closer, none of his previous movies has been so bizarrely Freudian. Does She Hate Me hate itself? The happy fade-out would be risible rather than dumbfounding had Lee chosen not to comment on it with the image of Jack’s dad, now sitting in a wheelchair, looking on in approval and chuckling over life’s little oddities.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 20, 2004