She Hate Me (2004) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

You know a film is on shaky ground when it is made by one of the most famous directors in the world and its distribution maxxes out on 28 screens! How bad is it? Bad. It came close to making the Worst of the Year lists. I recently did a quick summary of the worst 2004 movies according to Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb, and Metacritic. In order to make the final list of infamy, a film had to meet certain screening criteria: 25 or less at Metacritic, 4.0 or less at IMDb, and 10% or less at Rotten Tomatoes. The final list consisted of six films which qualified under all three of those criteria.

Spike Lee's She Hate Me didn't make the list, but it came close, about as close as a great director is ever going to come. It did qualify on the IMDb criterion, missed by only one point at Metacritic, and scored 20% on the Tomatometer.

And he is a great director. I like Spike's films. In some cases I love them. When he is on top of his game, he is brilliant. Even when he misses the bulls-eye, he makes interesting, passionate, savvy movies that want to engage us in dialogue. Look at his list below. Mo' Better Blues is in 15th place. I would sell my soul to make a film as good as Mo' Better Blues, and Spike has made 14 of them.

  1. (7.79) - 25th Hour (2002)
  2. (7.69) - Do the Right Thing (1989)
  3. (7.49) - Malcolm X (1992)
  4. (7.33) - 4 Little Girls (1997)
  5. (7.19) - Ten Minutes Older: The Trumpet (2002)
  6. (6.79) - Clockers (1995)
  7. (6.57) - Get on the Bus (1996)
  8. (6.49) - He Got Game (1998)
  9. (6.40) - Summer of Sam (1999)
  10. (6.39) - Jungle Fever (1991)
  11. (6.29) - Bamboozled (2000)
  12. (6.28) - She's Gotta Have It (1986)
  13. (6.21) - Joe's Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads (1983)
  14. (6.19) - Crooklyn (1994)
  15. (6.10) - Mo' Better Blues (1990)
  16. (5.42) - Jim Brown All American (2002)
  17. (5.34) - School Daze (1988)
  18. (5.13) - Girl 6 (1996)
  19. (4.26) - She Hate Me (2004)

So what happened With She Hate Me? I don't know. This film is mired so far below the rest of Spike's career that it can't even see second-last place. The IMDb doesn't create separate lists for the "Bottom 100" according to different demographic groups, but if they did, She Hate This would be the perfect summary for this movie. Women score this film a bottom-dwelling 2.6!!!

It's such a strange, inconsequential, chaotic, seemingly ignorant film that I just don't get it. Maybe it is a brilliant satire on a very deep level and Spike never lets us in on the joke. Maybe he just plain misfired. Maybe he just made a commitment to another man's script and didn't know how to back off. (It was co-written by Spike and Michael Genet, an actor who has no other writing credits.)

Whatever happened, it produced disastrous results.

I've been thinking how to describe this film to somebody who hasn't seen it. Imagine if you took some scenes from the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup, added some dramatic footage from Silkwood, threw in some footage from one of those cartoons where Bugs Bunny battles the Japanese in WW2, a little bit of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, a couple of scenes from The Godfather, one or two from All The President's Men, a few from Booty Call, and maybe some scenes from Gigli, and you'd be about there, assuming you cut all that material together helter-skelter, with no particular logic. Result? It's a comedy. It's a Bergmanesque drama. It's gory realism. It's a wacky sex farce. It's a dark comedy. It's social muckraking. It's an anti-corporate homage to whistleblowers. It's a zany cartoon.

It's a Salvador Dali painting.

Here's the plot summary from IMDb

Harvard-educated biotech executive John Henry "Jack" Armstrong gets fired when he informs on his bosses, launching an investigation into their business dealings by the Securities & Exchange Commission. Branded a whistle-blower and therefore unemployable, Jack desperately needs to make a living. When his former girlfriend Fatima, a high powered businesswoman -- and now a lesbian -- offers him cash to impregnate her and her new girlfriend Alex, Jack is persuaded by the chance to make easy money. Word spreads and soon Jack is in the baby-making business at $10,000 a try. Lesbians with a desire for motherhood and the cash to spare are lining up to seek his services. But, between the attempts by his former employers to frame him for security fraud and his dubious fathering activities, Jack finds his life, all at once, becoming very complicated.

I should fill in a few details that the summary above tactfully omits. These lesbians do not want to get pregnant from artificial insemination. They do not just want Jack's sperm. No, they all want to have sex with Jack. And they are the kinds of carefree lesbians unconcerned about the fact that they might have to have sex with a man dozens and dozens of times in order to get pregnant, as would happen in real life. Fortunately, Jack only needs one shot. In fact, he can do several of them in an evening, and they all get pregnant. And they all have earth-shattering orgasms. Oh, yeah, and they are all really hot, foxy, feminine lesbians who purr come-ons and innuendos constantly. Obviously, then, there is inside every lesbian a heterosexual woman waiting for the right dick. Or to put it more directly in the context of this movie, there is inside every lesbian ... Jack's dick.

To kick off the Enron portion of the entertainment, there's George Bush on a Three Dollar Bill (right). The top corporate guy, of course, is a shrill, sneaky, reprehensible, one-dimensional sleazebag with no redeeming qualities except his value as a target for satire.

(A CEO played by Woody Harrelson in a cheap toupee? I guess Cheech Marin and Carrot Top must have been busy.)

But that summary above only covers the central plot. There are also a half dozen sub-plots, and none of them have much of anything to do with the main plot. There is John Turturro as The Godfather (actually impersonating Brando, and admitting it), with Monica Bellucci as his hot lesbian daughter. There is a crazy sidetrack about the Watergate break-in, and the security guard who first blew the whistle on the DNC burglary. That guard was a black man named Frank Wills who could have been embraced by America as a hero, but instead died young, destitute and forgotten. (Presumably because he was black?) There are heavy-handed riffs on stereotyping the black male, spreading African AIDS, and God knows what else.

Do you see what I meant before about not knowing whether I'm in on the joke? I don't know where Spike stops showing his own POV and starts parodying somebody else's. Is Spike showing ignorance with all this crazy stuff, or is he making fun of people with ignorant attitudes? Is he indulging his adolescent fantasies, or is he making fun of Hollywood's obsession with adolescent fantasies? Is he writing his own one-dimensional fantasy characters, or simply making fun of movies which do? In each case, I'm not too sure where the ignorant exploitation movie ends and the savvy satire begins. Roger Ebert gave this film a good review, and leaned strongly toward believing that Spike was indulging in a carefully calculated satire. After all, Ebert reasoned, Spike teaches film at Harvard, fer chrissakes, and knows how to make good movies, so he could not make a film as bad as this unless he was being deliberately subversive. He must have wanted to make a bad film. Right? Spike is a smart man, so he can't possibly really believe every lesbian would enjoy sex with a man if she just waited for the right one. Right? Right?

I don't know. Maybe. Frankly, I'm not persuaded by Roger's reasoning. I think Spike just plain made a bad movie, Harvard or no Harvard. I think he makes great movies when he writes about real people that he knows and the real things they have done, but maybe he should leave this surreal shit to Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam.

To be fair, She Hate Me has some tender moments, and some funny moments, but they are stranded out of any context, and the belly laughs are generally followed by some deadly earnest material about death, corporate greed, and imperialism.

Wild tone shifts. Cardboard characters. Offense to many types of people. Odd stuff ...

Speaking of odd stuff, do you recognize who that is on the left, playing a German scientist in She Hate Me? If you're a major film buff, you should get it.

Give up?

Have you seen The Tin Drum? This is the little kid who protested Nazism by refusing to grow up! I haven't seen him in decades, and didn't even know he was still acting.


  • Kerry Washington - buns in a thong, very brief breasts in a sex scene.
  • Anthony Mackie - buns clearly. His penis is also exposed, but unlit to keep it subtle.
  • Paula Jai Parker - breasts
  • Savannah Haske - breasts
  • Bai Ling - very brief nipple flash
  • Breasts from Aura Grimolyte in a sex scene with Mackie that was photographed by her girlfriend.
  • Breasts and the top of a bum from one other woman in a sex scene with Kerry Washington

She Hate Me is also a very long movie - well over the two hour mark -  which could have been, and probably should have been, two movies, although I'm not sure either of them would have been any good.

Oh, my.

Let's hope Spike comes back to his senses for his next film.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus: two and a half stars. James Berardinelli 2.5/4, Roger Ebert 3/4.

  • British consensus: one and a half stars. Mail 2/10, Telegraph 3/10, Independent 6/10, Guardian 4/10, Times 4/10, Sun 6/10, Express 3/10, BBC 3/5

The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. It was never expanded beyond 28 theaters, and grossed only about $360,000

Miscellaneous ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a D maybe even an E, as I read our description  I like Spike's movies a lot. I love his best ones. I hated this one. So I guess it is a D-. You'll probably hate it, and you have to hate it for nearly two and a half hours, although the middle section has a lot of nudity, which livens it up a bit.

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