Fearless as ever, director Spike Lee brings out the big guns for comedy drama She Hate Me, an artful attack on corporate America and the fat cats whose financial holdings turn out to be as bankrupt as their moral reserves. Likeable geek Anthony Mackie stars as white-collar flunky Jack Armstrong, who sabotages his career by turning whistleblower and then resorts to impregnating lesbians for cash. It's an outrageous premise, outlandishly executed - sadly it's also as scattered as Enron's accounting books.
Jack has a bright future at pharmaceutical conglomerate Progeia until he walks in on a paper-shredding soiree. After sparking an investigation into the company's financial dealings, he gets his marching orders and becomes unemployable. Smelling desperation, ex-girlfriend Fatima (Kerry Washington) and her new (lesbian!) lover Alex (Dania Ramirez) make Jack a proposition: a shot of sperm in return for a much-needed cash injection. Jack accepts and from there becomes a one-man fertility shop, knocking up lesbians for $10,000 a pop.
"FASCINATING FROM START TO FINISH"
Mixing darkness and light - from suicide to silly pratfalls - She Hate Me is a bold, but sometimes overly brash attempt to correlate sexual and governmental politics. Digs against President Bush are jarringly blunt, and a surreal reenactment of the Watergate break-in is just distracting. The gearshift that takes the plot from conspiracy thriller to sex comedy is similarly awkward.
Even so, She Hate Me is fascinating from start to finish. Jack's moral dilemmas tap into the most basic human frailties, and it's a credit to Mackie that he's able to make a knotty character unswervingly sympathetic. A few of the visual devices that Lee employs also help to keep the story from sinking under the weight of its thematic concerns e.g. animated sperm fertilising an egg plays like a psychedelic sex-ed video. Many might find the ending difficult to digest, but there's no doubting She Hate Me comes straight from the heart.
She Hate Me is released in UK cinemas on Friday 24th September 2004.