A bad scene staged by Spike Lee has a ring like no one else’s. It usually centers on people shouting at one another, with a stiff pomposity of language that rises in proportion to the righteousness of their ire. The recrimination and rage, the bellicose sourness, make it sound as if the yellers were puppets acting out the director’s distemper. Counterpointing the scene will be one of those lush yet limpidly morose Terence Blanchard jazz scores that Lee seems to slather over every film he makes. Doesn’t he ever long for a different sound, a different mood? I think that Lee has done extraordinary work in the last 10 years (”Clockers,” ”Bamboozled”), but when he goes wrong, he goes very wrong, and he has never gone as wrong as he does in She Hate Me. This is one of those destined-to-be-legendary disasters in which the awful scenes don’t just pile up. They crash into each other, like runaway boxcars hurtling off of different trains. The damned music keeps playing, too. In ”She Hate Me,” it’s like a dirge for the demise of Spike Lee’s good sense.
Lee’s hero is John Henry Armstrong (Anthony Mackie), known as Jack, a hot young vice president at a newfangled multi-tentacled corporation. At the beginning, Dr. Schiller (David Bennent), the company’s visionary researcher, leaps out of a high-rise office window after learning that the AIDS vaccine he invented was rejected by the FDA – and, what’s more, that the corporation’s accounts have been raided by its corrupt executives. As the office implodes, Lee merges the scandals of Enron and ImClone, yet in such a literal, reductive, stilted-TV-movie way that he does little more than assert his desire for topicality. After stumbling onto some ominous paper shredding, Jack is inspired to blow the whistle, and the result is he gets tossed out of the company and frozen out of his personal bank accounts.
How convenient it is, then, that Fatima (Kerry Washington), the ex-girlfriend who ditched him when she discovered that she prefers women, picks this very moment to come knocking at his door, asking – no, demanding – that he make both her and her lover pregnant for $10,000 apiece. Since he needs the cash, he agrees after a few feeble protests. Nothing about the way that any of this is staged is believable: It’s Lee’s ”cute” yet paranoid fantasy of child-hungry yet emasculating lesbians reducing the corporate modern male to the status of stud horse. Before long, all of Fatima’s lesbian friends are lining up to have intercourse with Jack. They taunt him and call him things like ”bitch boy,” but they all want that magic sperm!
What on earth is Lee saying in ”She Hate Me”? That Jack, in getting screwed by the corporation, has been reduced by society to the status of degraded man-whore? The only one we see exploiting Jack is Jack. What’s truly ugly about the film is that without any apparent irony, it appears to buy into the most hideous possible stereotype of black men as simultaneously the most coveted and the most dehumanized of sexual beings. With its walking-sperm-bank antihero, its stony fashionista lesbians (who, naturally, all dig having sex with Jack), and its turgid lessons in the pornography of economics, ”She Hate Me” manages to be at once racist, homophobic, utterly fake, and unbearably tedious. This time, it’s Spike Lee who’s doing the bamboozling.