Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 1991. Universal Pictures, 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks. Screenplay by Spike Lee. Cinematography by Ernest R. Dickerson. Produced by Spike Lee. Music by Terence Blanchard. Production Design by Wynn Thomas. Costume Design by Ruth E. Carter. Film Editing by Samuel D. Pollard. Cannes Film Festival 1991.
Even when Spike Lee makes a less-than-perfect movie it’s still incredibly watchable for many good reasons. The story wanders too many places and lacks a cohesive focus, but each of the characters are so well drawn and exceptionally performed that you’ll stay glued to the screen until the very end. Wesley Snipes plays a successful advertising executive who has an affair with his temp secretary (Annabella Sciorra) which causes a huge uproar in both his black neighbourhood and her Bensonhurst Italian one. Snipes loses his relationship with his loving wife (Lonette McKee), while Sciorra alienates her girlfriends and suffers the wrath of her traditional father. Meanwhile, Snipes’s crack-addicted brother (Samuel L. Jackson, who veritably steals the show) keeps hitting up their vulnerable parents for money to get high, while Sciorra’s on-off boyfriend (John Turturro) is entertaining a romance with a beautiful black woman who frequents his cafe. In the end, our two protagonists have to decide if what they feel for each other is strong enough to survive the prejudices of an entire city steeped in ignorance and bias, or if they’re nothing more than a curiosity to each other. Lee should be commended for making a film where people talk about all the politically incorrect things they’re feeling; it’s so refreshing to see someone who doesn’t want to whitewash history in order to build a better future (see Patriot, The.) A rather abrupt ending ruins an otherwise satisfying experience, but it isn’t much of a downside. Jackson’s performance so impressed the Cannes jury that they created a Best Supporting Actor award to present to him, one of the very few times this has ever been done.