“Drop your drawers and let’s get to work.”
When She Hate Me begins, John Henry “Jack” Armstrong (Anthony Mackie) is a corporate executive working for Progeia–a company that is developing an AIDS vaccine. The company scientist Herman Schiller (David Bennent) has an odd conversation with Jack, and then throws himself out of the window. Schiller’s suicide is connected with some shady business dealings at Progeia. Jack becomes a whistleblower and suddenly finds himself unemployed and the target of surveillance and investigation. With all of his accounts frozen, Jack is penniless. Then ex-girlfriend–now–lesbian Fatima (Kerry Washington) emerges and offers Jack $10,000 if he will impregnate both her and her partner. Jack at first resists but gives in. Soon Fatima is lining up lesbians who pay Jack $10,000 each for his services–it’s a “sideline occupation for an ever-changing economy.”
The first two-thirds of Spike Lee’s film She Hate Me is pure genius. Laced with political criticism of the Bush administration and of the capitalistic nature of American society that chews up and spits out individuals, Spike Lee explores Jack’s gradual marginalisation. As a corporate executive, Jack is ready to sacrifice any hopes of family to stay focused on his career. When he’s stripped on his career, he’s left with one only thing–his reproductive capability–but soon even that is divorced from any financial or parental responsibility. Jack is the ultimate sex object, and through hysterically funny scenes, Jack is reduced to “a cash cow.” With obvious allusions to the Enron scandal and the ethical practices of major pharmaceutical companies, Spike Lee skewers those he lampoons while layering societal criticism with some of the boldest comedy I’ve seen in ages.
She Hate Me is full of terrific supporting roles–such as Don Angelo Bonasera (John Turturro)–watch for his imitation of Marlon Brando playing the Godfather–it’s amazing. Woody Harrelson plays Progeia CEO Leland Powell–ever ready with the next BS story to give to the eager media. The parking garage Watergate fantasy scene will go down in film history as one of the most imaginative scenes ever made. Unfortunately, She Hate Me begins to be mired down with excessive, clumsy heavy-handed preachy scenes that detract from the film’s overall style. The plot is too loose and too muddled, but I can forgive director Spike Lee a great deal when rating She Hate Me. This thought-provoking film is well worth watching.