She’s Gotta Have It (1986)
Sometimes I’m watching movies at such a furious clip I’m barely even seeing them. I’ll watch the movies but then find that a week later I don’t remember what happened in the movie, how it ended or which character did what. I haven’t had a stroke or anything, it’s just that it gets hard to remember things. You try watching four Hollywood noirs from the 1950s one weekend then trying to remember which one is which a month later. It’s hard. So I was watching too many movies lately and I decided to read a book. Obviously the book is somewhat about movies. It’s Spike Lee’s basketball memoir Best Seat in the House from around 1997. I’ve always liked Spike and basketball and movies. No brainer.
Best Seat in the House was really great and made me like Spike Lee even more than I already did. He’s funny and insightful, and a true basketball fan, loyal to his hometown team (RARE in Atlanta. My friend Matt and I went to the Hawks-Lakers game and were nearly drowned in a sea of gold and purple-clad fake-as-shit Lakers fans. Hawks won anyway, fuck all those assholes (sorry, I’m getting worked up just thinking about it)). The book brought back memories of Spike on the sidelines feuding with Reggie Miller in the mid 90s. I remember those games! That made me consider that Spike Lee was probably the first person I ever knew as somebody who makes movies. I’m sure I asked my mom or dad who that crazy courtside fan was, or maybe the announcers mentioned it. Either way, I first knew Spike Lee as a sports fanatic who made movies. It wasn’t until years later I saw the movies themselves. It was in college that I first watched She’s Gotta Have It. I remember it came on tv and I watched it with my roommate Josh (Big Mass, for those of you who know that there have been two Josh roommates in my life). I loved She’s Gotta Have It, and even though I forget movies all the time, I never forgot this one.
She’s Gotta Have It is so funny. It’s the tale of Nola Darling and her three very different boyfriends (Jamie, Greer, and Mars). The men all know about each other and are bothered by the other boyfriends, but Nola’s worth it, and they all hold out hope that they will be the man Nola chooses in the end. I just re-watched it for the first time since I watched it in college. I remembered Mars Blackmon being funny as shit, but on second viewing I feel like Greer Childs stole the show. I know the character lacks depth and is more caricature than anything, but I like him and everything he said made me laugh. He’s vain and hilarious. Mars is for sure much more original, but I laugh and laugh just thinking about Greer Childs. It’s funny how Spike Lee has such an angry reputation and gets no credit at all for having the sweet gift of humor. Oh well.
Greer and Nola getting some sun. Perhaps an early instance of the puka shell necklace
I’d rank She’s Gotta Have It very highly in a number of categories. It certainly deserves a plaque or a bust or a wax figure in the “first feature film” hall of fame. It also pulls off one of the most difficult things, which is having characters talk to the camera. This can so easily turn out awful, cutesy or cheesy, but here it works so well. The camera talking reminds me of Annie Hall, which reminds me that She’s Gotta Have It is also a super hero of that other category, “New York movies.” SOOOOOOO many movies are set or are filmed in New York, but only a select few are so profoundly attached to the place that they get “New York movie” status. I know you’re shaking your head because Woody Allen and Spike Lee dominate this category, but what can I say? There are other New York movies by other people, real ones, you just have to think about it. Sweet Smell of Success is a good one. Anyway, She’s Gotta Have It is a New York movie set and filmed entirely in Brooklyn. Lastly, this movie is one of the best relationship comedies ever. I don’t want to call it say “romantic comedy” because even though I have a wide range of what belongs in the genre, I think some people may think romantic comedy means some fluffy, safe, boring as shit chick flick starring Matthew McConaughey and Jessica Alba as rival spin class instructors who find themselves falling in love while on a cruise ship or something. She’s Gotta Have It is not that type of movie! It’s a serious relationship movie that just happens to be insanely funny. But it’s very insightful and unexpected and interesting. It’s also by no means safe rom-com fare. There is some cussin’ and lots and lots of nudity, some of it kinda strange. But man, is it a good movie.
When I was 9 years old I’d never seen a basketball fan like Spike Lee. He was original; he was passionate; he was unforgettable. The same things can be said of Spike Lee the movie director.