She’s Gotta Have It (1986)

She’s Gotta Have It
Director: Spike Lee
Writer: Spike Lee
Cast: Tracy Camilla Johns, Tommy Redmond Hicks, John Canada Terrell, Spike Lee, Raye Dowell, Joie Lee, S. Epatha Merkerson, Bill Lee
Seen on: 17.2.2018

Nola (Tracy Camilla Johns) is looking for love and sex. But she’s not really ready to settle down with just one guy, so she dates three of them: Jamie (Tommy Redmond Hicks) is protective and caring, but also a little controlling. Greer (John Canada Terrell) is a wealthy model who is also pretty arrogant. And Mars (Spike Lee) is sweet and funny, but also a little immature. Nola would be content to stay dating all three of them, but the guys all want to be exclusive, putting some pressure on her.

She’s Gotta Have It is a little strange at times, mostly in the good way. It doesn’t work on all counts, but it does work and I liked it a lot.

Nola is a great character and I was all the way with her throughout the film. As was the film which was particularly lovely: Nola is not some kind of maneater or a slut, as the film – in the hands of man no less – could have easily made her out to be. She’s figuring things out. And figuring things out doesn’t mean that she needs to decide who she loves but how she wants to live, no matter the men in her life.

Putting myself in Nola’s position, I could definitely understand why she couldn’t choose between Mars (Spike Lee is really supercute in that role) and Jamie (at least at first), but I honestly failed to see what she saw in Greer and kept wondering why she didn’t kick him to the curb much sooner.

I did struggle with the portrayal of Opal (Raye Dowell). She’s Nola’s friend and she also happens to be a lesbian. And she would really like to sleep with Nola. And she keeps pushing, crossing boundaries repeatedly. It just feeds into the predatory gay trope and the film doesn’t seem to take it all that seriously. There’s also a scene with explicit sexual violence, but at least the film is clear here that it is sexual violence.

The film is shot in black and white which on the one hand underscores the art film vibe to it, but also gives it a more timeless feel that I found as enjoyable as the rest of the film.

Summarizing: a small, fine film.

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