A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie isn't for kids of any age. It contains extremely mature material with nudity, graphic scenes of childbirth, and many explicit sexual encounters, straight and gay. Characters drink, smoke, and use very strong language. A character commits suicide by jumping out of a window. He falls on another man, and they're both killed. A theme of the movie relates to being paid for sex and the parallels to selling one's soul.
What's the story?
When the FDA won't approve his company's new AIDS vaccine, the perfect life of Jack Armstrong (newcomer Anthony Mackie) begins to crumble. His friend and colleague commits suicide, he's labeled corrupt and fired for trying to investigate his suspiciously downward spiraling company, and his bank account is frozen. Desperate, Jack accepts $10,000 to impregnate his ex-fiancee, Fatima (Kerry Washington), and her girlfriend. Fatima is entrepreneurial, but seems to derive some pleasure by being in a position of power over her ex. She begins to act as broker for his sperm, setting him up with lesbians who want to get pregnant. Jack delivers the old-fashioned way, energized by Viagra washed down with Red Bull. Meanwhile, Jack also has to cope with his father's failing health and his parents' failing marriage, and the mistreatment of the security guard who discovered the Watergate burglars but died broke. And one of the lesbians turns out to be the daughter of a mafia don.
Is it any good?
So many movies get released without any ideas or point of view whatsoever that it seems churlish to say this one from Spike is overstuffed, but it is. Its many directions are intended to enrich each other, but they ultimately diminish each other. There are also elements that just feel pointless. Monica Bellucci is not only too old to be the daughter of John Turturro, but she speaks with an Italian accent while he does not. The security guard subplot seems completely extraneous and is quite a stretch, and the lesbian plot shifts from female empowerment to male heterosexual fantasy.
It may be troubling and imperfect, but it's still a Spike Lee movie, which means that it is well worth watching and arguing over. Perhaps the issues he is trying to raise can only be addressed in a fractured style. But the individual shards of this film have more audacity and intelligence than most of what is out there, and its failures are more interesting to ponder than most films' successes.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Angelo Bonasera's comments on the way that a movie like The Godfather portrays and inspires real-life criminals and how real-life criminals inspire wanna-be "gangsta" rap stars. What decisions does Jack regret? How does he try to make good what he has done wrong? What does co-screenwriter/director Lee want to tell us with Jack's family, especially with the relationship to his parents?
- In theaters: July 28, 2004
- On DVD or streaming: February 1, 2005
- Cast: Anthony Mackie, Ellen Barkin, Kerry Washington
- Director: Spike Lee
- Studio: Sony Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 138 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong graphic sexuality/nudity, language and a scene of violence
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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