She's gotta have it Review
"She's Gotta Have It", 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, 1986
Spike Lee's celebrated debut presents an entertainingly forthright lens into the world of afrocentricity and the crude reality of not only women's sexuality but also the moral ambiguity that comes with freedom and desire. It's Jean-Luc-Goddard-esque amateurish roughness that frames the story, ultimately, does an effective job at playing off of the familiar theme of love and underlining the various shades of masculinity that helps construct it, paving a fundamental stepping-stone for the writer/director's auteur-defining motif of community.
The film's lovably liberalist ideals are planted by Camilla-John's Nola, whose, arguably, ignorant naivety perfectly establishes the sly cheekiness of its comedy, facilitating its loose sense of rhythm, as exemplified by its purposefully-inconsistently-paced structure with its documentary-style self-awareness that commentates over the story being told. Lee uses this as an opportunity to re-examine the shallowness that the conflicts are often shaped by in rom-coms, opting for a more introspective approach and exploring instead the overarching conflict between the strengths of one's individual beliefs and the moral responsibility shared in a relationship. This is admirably clever in not only allowing the audience to examine the moral ambiguity which comes with both contemporary and modern strands of feminism, but also helps punctuate poignant wit that drives the enjoyable dynamic that the characters share, which are often presented through a surprisingly artificially theatrical lens. Whilst this style of direction may undercut the authenticity of the themes that are being presented, such as trust, it does help define the various forms of entitled masculinity that are being characterised in humorously self-aware ways. This dramatic edge that is mixed in with the veneer of social satire can also be seen with the harsh tonal shifts brought by the juxtaposition of light between spot-lit, highlighting the delicacy of the human body, and natural, underlining the ordinary day-in-the-life feel to the diegesis, both of which effectively breaks past the pretentious nature of satirising sexual and social stereotypes and taps into an underlying sense of weakness and vulnerability that comes with the understanding of self and the desire for sexual maturity.
Whilst some of the narrative strands lack dramatic urgency to keep the ideological conundrum the narrative teters on totally compelling, the casual approach to the storytelling and the refinley-rugged stylistic presentation provides the perfect backdrop for the struggle between independent and social stability.