Knight at the Movies ARCHIVES
Makin' Babies and Scarin' the Townsfolks:
She Hate Me, The Village
8-4-04 Knight at the Movies column
By Richard Knight, Jr.

The “old” Spike Lee is back with She Hate Me.  That’s both good and bad.  Good because he's again tackling,
big, tough, current event subjects and bad, because he’s trying to stuff too much into what ends up being another
of his raw, messy pictures.  She Hate Me might be his most schizophrenic work – a riveting tale of corporate
whistle blowing and a flat, screwballish lesbian “L Word” sorta low comedy.  That the two don’t mesh is okay
because Lee, who has such intense feeling for his subject matter, just keeps tossing out one idea and character
after another until something sticks.  It’s always enervating to watch his process.

Lee doesn’t waste any time laying his liberal cards on the table and sticking it to George Bush and corporate
America here.  The credit sequence features a series of close-ups of U.S. currency and as the dollar figures grow
higher and higher over the beautiful symphonic somberness of frequent Lee collaborator Terence Blanchard’s
music, so does the visual punch that accompanies the shot of the finale: a bogus Enron $3 dollar bill with Bush’s
face smiling forth.

Lee then jumps into the fray with the story of a fictional pharmaceutical company (obviously based on scandal
plagued ImClone) that has just had FDA approval of its new AIDS drug turned down.  Jack (Anthony Mackie), an
MBA with the company, blows the whistle after failing to be convinced by his tough boss Margo (Ellen Barkin –
riveting in one of her patented castrating female roles) to stonewall.  Within days Jack’s life falls apart – he
loses his job, is blackballed from finding another and his bank account is frozen.  But just when things seem at
their bleakest, there’s a knock on Jack’s door and Lee throws us into another movie altogether.

Fatima (Kerry Washington), his ex-fiancé and her lesbian lover, Alex (Dania Ramierz) have decided to have a
baby and want Jack to be the father.  They’re willing to pay $10,000 for the privilege.  “But you’re lesbians,
right?” Jack asks incredulously.  “We’re businesswomen” Fatima answers and Jack, still smarting from losing
Fatima to a woman (not Alex) just before their wedding, is soon in bed with her (Alex becomes jealous and

Fatima gets pregnant and soon there is another knock on the door.  This time she’s rounded up a group of high
stepping lesbians all willing to pay the same ten grand for the same treatment.  Jack, stunned, but having
decided that “doing the right thing ruined my life” is soon standing buck naked before the ladies so they can
inspect the merchandise.  The first of several baby-making parties begins as he then proceeds to bed the women
one at a time in comedic montages that seem like stereotypical straight male fantasies.  

None of the women, who run the gamut of dykedom from glam to diesel, seems concerned that Jack is fathering
all their children practically at once or anything else for that matter.  “It’s all good” for everyone but like that
idiotic phrase, it just doesn’t ring true.  And would lesbians of any ilk really want to sit around at some guy’s
house listening to him copulating with their gal pals through the walls?

As the nth candlelit lesbian-straight guy lovemaking scene burned away, I wondered where the original evil
corporate cover up story went and longed for the return of nasty Barkin.  Lee does eventually return to the
original story (after a lovely scene in which Jack and Fatima finally talk about her becoming a lesbian) and
intertwines it with the second (while adding a rather bizarre subplot with John Turturro as a “Godfather” quoting
godfather and his lesbian daughter, the luscious Monica Bellucci) but the movie – though well acted – never
really recovers from changing its tone from drama to comedy.

Lee’s best pictures –
Do The Right Thing, Clockers, and Jungle Fever, have stayed on topic – or at least on tone
– and have stayed credible.  Like it’s lead character, Jack,
She Hate Me attempts to please everyone, which
inevitably leads to disappointment.  The whole is lesser than the sum of its parts in this flawed but interesting,
two-in-one picture.


I thought
Signs, M. Night Shyamalan’s last movie, which told the story of a man having a crisis of faith (Mel
Gibson) amidst an impending alien invasion (foretold by crop circles mysteriously appearing on his farm), a
masterpiece of suspense and metaphor.  It was the pinnacle of his particular blend of those elements.  As the
willfully controlled Shyamalan has noted in interviews, however, the need to build surprise twists into his
pictures has stifled him creatively and raised the bar higher and higher with each new release.

The audience is not going to make it over the high bar with
The Village, his latest suspense-metaphor movie.  
Not because the build-up doesn’t promise and deliver the requisite chills that come from a good thriller but
because the audience now believes that limits don’t apply to his films and want the twists no matter how
divorced from reality they are.  The payoff here is grounded in that reality but Shyamalan’s conditioning has
done its job with me and I wanted the ghosties and goblins the
Blair Witch type credits promised.

The Village, which is beautifully cast, photographed and acted, one can almost hear Shyamalan begging to
be released from the surprise supernatural ending box into which he’s placed himself but I for one, don’t want to
let him go.  His writing has a poetic cast that certainly points in new directions but will audiences follow?  
Perhaps, like several of the characters in this film, Shyamalan needs to brave a walk through the dark woods
and see if he can come out on the other side with something new and fresh and audiences be damned – me
Spike Lee gives us two movies for the price of one, M. Night Shyamalan's Ghost Story