Very few films in recent memory have incured the near universal wrath of critics like Spike Lee's She Hate Me, out on DVD today. The plot stretches any concievable limits of taste or plausibility: a young black man (Anthony Mackie), emasculated by his role in a corporate scandal, picks up some pocket change by impregnating a host of lesbians the, uh, "old fashioned way"; a crisis of humanity ensues. It's supposed to be a comedy, but as J. Hoberman wrote in the Village Voice, Lee seems determined not to let anyone laugh it up:
...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.
Roger Ebert is the only major film critic who didn't flat-out hate Hate - in fact, he claims he "learned from it":
I knew I could plow into the movie and spare not a single frame, using implacable logic and withering sarcasm. But some seed of subversion in the film made that feel too easy. Whatever its faults, the movie had engaged and fascinated me in its various parts, even if it seemed to have no whole. [...]Maybe the point is to look at this film … and avoid the easy answer, which is that [Lee] made a preposterous movie because he didn't know any better. He knows better. He could have delivered a safe, politically correct, well-made film without even breathing hard….By getting mad at the movie, we arrive at the conclusions he intends. In a sense, he is sacrificing himself to get his message across.
She Hate Me's overwhelmingly "rotten" Tomatometer rating aside, any film that convinces a critic as, um, practiced as Roger Ebert to reevaluate the very way he approaches criticism has GOT to be worth adding to one's GreenCine queue.
Also new on DVD this week: