If any other director made a film where beefy, bull-dyke lesbians are brought to orgasmic climax by a well-endowed male stud, you'd expect a feminist backlash. So how come Spike Lee gets away with it? Well, it could be that he has a serious point to put across about sexual morality and business ethics in the naughty Noughties. Then again, it could be that his eagerness to shock is so engrained on the popular consciousness that he's now more likely to provoke an indulgent shrug than a scream of outrage.
In many ways, She Hate Me is vintage Lee: a scabrous, woolly, angry comedy that, rather like its promiscuous hero (Anthony Mackie), fires off in all directions. Most filmmakers would consider white-collar crime, the AIDS pandemic and lesbian parenting worthy topics to build a movie around. But only Spike would attempt to deal with them all in one film and throw in a Watergate-era flashback for good measure.
Lee is justifiably enraged with the insider trading and corporate double-dealing that have wreaked havoc on so many American lives. (The film opens with a montage of dollar bills, ending with a $3 note bearing Bush's face and an Enron watermark.) But it's hard to reconcile that righteous indignation with the ingredients of a Farrelly brothers sex farce. Watching Mackie's hero seduce an array of uptight NY Sapphists, you wonder if he's not so much providing them a service as taking revenge on the entire female gender. Moreover, Lee undermines his satire by implying that all a lesbian needs to be `cured' is a good heterosexual shafting.
Is Lee advocating a generation of fatherless, mixed-race, paid-for bastards? And how does his fury at the AIDS crisis reconcile with his film's sanctioning of serial unprotected intercourse? Still, there are great moments here: Woody Harrelson and Ellen Barkin's double-act as the sleazy VPs who engineer Mackie's downfall; Mackie-faced sperm racing towards a fantasy ovum; John Turturro aping Brando as Monica Bellucci's Mafia don dad. It's just a shame they're part of a picture inseminated with coarse misogyny.
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Flashy, juvenile and sexist, She Hate Me is Lee at his most infuriating. Undeniably entertaining, but a step backwards after 25th Hour.