I'm sure somewhere in "She Hate Me" lies a good story that would make for an entertaining movie. What we have, however, is a convoluted mess that tries too hard to be a social satire.
The premise: Jack Armstrong (Anthony Mackie), a hotshot VP at a pharmaceutical company, suddenly finds himself unemployed and in need of money. When his ex-fiancée-turned-lesbian Fatima Goodrich (Kerry Washington) offers him $10,000 to impregnate her and her lover Alex (the sexy Dania Ramirez), Jack realizes he could be a sexual cash cow. Next thing he knows, he's in high demand from wealthy lesbians who want children.
The problem is that Lee doesn't know what he wants his film to be. Or, what the story should be. He tackles way too many issues and never tackles any of them very well.
The film opens with a novel title sequence that ends with a broadside against President George W. Bush. Fair enough. Lee's bit actually works. The story then turns into some sort of diatribe against corporate greed, against the blatant excesses of the Enrons and WorldComs of corporate America. OK. Then there's also all this stuff about lesbians and impregnating them. And Jack's conscience about whether he's doing the right thing.
But the film then suddenly turns into a defense of Frank Wills, the black security guard who uncovered the Watergate burglary. Lee makes a valid point that while all the players involved in the burglary and subsequent cover-up went on to have lucrative careers as statesmen, authors, speakers and radio personalities, Wills died in obscurity. A tribute to Wills is long overdue. The man was a hero. But what the heck's his story doing in this film? And in a moment that seems completely arbitrary, Lee also throws in Oliver North into the mix of Watergate figures.
For a satire to work, it needs to satirize something. Frankly, I didn't know what exactly Lee was trying to send up. And, after a while, I didn't care. His movie's neither a sex comedy nor stinging social commentary. In fact, at times "She Hates Me" plays more like some sort of unbridled male fantasy. Not only are all the lesbians attractive, but also they want to get impregnated the old-fashioned way. The one lesbian who chooses artificial insemination fails and so has to plead with Jack to have sex with her.
Subtlety has never been Lee's forte. But in films such as "Do the Right Thing" (1989) and "Jungle Fever" (1991), he somehow found a good balance between satire and social comment. Here, he does no such thing. In "She Hate Me," Lee's about as subtle as a sledgehammer.
What's ultimately disappointing about "She Hate Me" is the often-inane writing. When Fatima tells Jack she always was a lesbian, even when she was dating him, and was merely in denial, she adds, "And I don't mean a river in Egypt." That's how lame the dialogue is. It gets even worse, when Lee and co-writer Michael Genet give Brian Dennehy positively laughable dialogue later.
The corrupt business practices of Enron and its ties to the Bush administration deserve to be told. As does a satire, if you must, of white collar crooks who get off relatively easy and wind up having hugely successful lives as a result of their crimes. But this isn't the film that does it.
Lee's clever, talented and certainly socially conscious, but just seems to be tossing in every idea he had into "She Hate Me." Instead of being bitingly satirical about society's lopsided values, this is a mishmash of a film that is never as funny as it wants to be or as provocative as it should be.