She’s Gotta Have It is the 1986 feature film debut of Spike Lee. The film is about a young woman who juggles 3 lovers in her love life. The film is a comedy at heart with some dramatic elements and is extremely self-reflexive. The film stars Tracy Camilla Johns as Nola Darling, Tommy Redmond Hicks as Jamie Overstreet, John Canada Terell as Greer Childs and Spike Lee as Mars Blackmon.
The film plays on an interesting situation, reversing the normal gender portrayal of the man having multiple sexual partners. In this case the lead character Nola has multiple sexual partners and has to deal with the borderline hypocrisy of each individual partner. The three partners represent 3 different types of male archetypes: Jamie is the “nice guy”, Mars is the “funny” guy and Greer is the self-obsessed model. However the film does explore these archetypes and essentially breaks them down showing how all three of them have varying degrees of faults. These faults being representative of the way men interact with women, showing its universality. The films focus on an independent woman and the message articulated that she is in control is one that is refreshing to see in a film, whether independent of studio-made. Additionally Nola isn’t some superhuman who is above everyone and immune to everything, she has a characterization that is complex. However this is not to say that the film is not completely unproblematic, as there is one specific scene near the end of the film which could be troublesome depending on your reading. This scene was alluded to by Spike Lee himself who has since said he regrets its inclusion in the film.
The portrayal of sexuality in the film is more interesting than the actual viewing experience of the film. The film is amusing up to a point but it does have a plodding quality. Though the viewing experience, as any experience, is necessarily subjective it felt grating at times. Even though I don’t exactly love Spike Lee I will still admit that for a feature film debut it is pretty successful in what it tries to accomplish. The film, and Spike Lee, was part of the new tide of independent films being released by soon-to-be auteurs such as Jim Jarmusch. Thus even I can see the value of the film.
The film was a massive financial success given the initially shooting budget of 185,000$ with a box office gross of 7.1 million dollars. It also performed well at Film festivals such as Cannes where it won “Award of the youth” foreign film category. The film is a landmark in American independent films from the 1980s and should at the minimum be seen once. And is there any better way than seeing it on the big screen? CINSSU will be showing the film at Alumni Hall on Friday October 3rd at 7pm.