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She's Gotta Have It is a 1986 American black-and-white comedy-drama film written, edited and directed by Spike Lee. Filmed on a small budget and Lee's first feature-length film, it earned rave reviews as one of the best films of the year, launching Lee's career.
The film stars Tracy Camilla Johns, Tommy Redmond Hicks, John Canada Terrell and Lee himself in a supporting role. Also appearing are cinematographer Ernest Dickerson as a Queens, New York resident and, in an early appearance, S. Epatha Merkerson as a doctor. The plot concerns a young woman (Johns) who is seeing three men, and the feelings this arrangement provokes.Contents
Nola Darling is a young, attractive Brooklynite who juggles three suitors: the polite and well-meaning Jamie Overstreet; the self-obsessed model Greer Childs; and the immature, motor-mouthed Mars Blackmon. Nola is attracted to the best in each of them, but refuses to commit to any of them, cherishing her personal freedom instead, while each man wants her for himself.
Her carefree, sexually liberated lifestyle ultimately comes to an end when her three male suitors meet and compare notes on Nola. While Greer justifies Nola's callous behavior by claiming that she sees the three not as individuals but as a collective, Jamie and Mars become bitter over how little Nola cares for all three men.
Realizing that Mars and Greer are too scared of losing Nola to force her to choose one of them, Jamie tells her that she must choose a single lover. Nola scoffs at this, and visits him several days later at his apartment for casual sex. Jamie rapes Nola, while mockingly asking her if he's as good sexually as Greer or Mars. Nola has an epiphany: realizing that her choices have turned Jamie against her, she decides to call his bluff. Nola dumps Greer and Mars and tells Jamie that she is ready for a monogamous relationship. Believing that her sexual activity has prevented her from committing to a single guy, Nola tells Jamie their relationship has to be celibate for the time being. After at first rejecting Nola's "no sex" decree, Jamie agrees to it.
Nola and Jamie's reunion, however, is followed by a coda which dismantles the "happy ending" of the couple coming together. In a monologue delivered to the camera, Nola reveals that her vow of celibacy and her decision to be with Jamie exclusively was "a moment of weakness". She says that she soon began to cheat on Jamie and their relationship collapsed. Nola proudly proclaims that monogamy is a form of slavery and that her lifestyle is freedom in its purest form. The film closes with a view of Nola going to bed alone.Themes
Nola idealizes the freedom to have multiple sex partners that men have typically enjoyed. “A woman (or, at least Nola) can be a sexual being, doesn’t have to belong to a man, and perhaps shouldn’t even wish for such a thing.” Nola’s voice has been described as the most revolutionary element in the film, a representation of the struggle American women of color faced in society at the time.Cast
She's Gotta Have It was Lee's first feature-length motion picture as a writer/director and is a landmark independent film of American cinema.
The New York Times wrote that the film
"ushered in (along with Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise) the American independent film movement of the 1980s. It was also a groundbreaking film for African-American filmmakers and a welcome change in the representation of blacks in American cinema, depicting men and women of color not as pimps and whores, but as intelligent, upscale urbanites."Filming
Filming in twelve days during the summer of 1985 on a budget of $175,000.
The film catalyzed the Fort Greene, Brooklyn neighborhood where it was shot. Lee portrayed the neighborhood as a vibrant cosmopolitan community where successful African Americans thrived, focusing not only on Nola and her struggles, but also on local children, residents, and graffiti. Fort Greene Park was the setting of much of the movie, and is portrayed as a comfortable place for the characters. People were encouraged to investigate the area's public spaces and viewers in other places investigated similar thriving public spaces of community importance.
Following the film's release, media attention was drawn to Brooklyn, and to its artists and musicians.Release Box office
She's Gotta Have It opened in one theater on August 8, 1986, and earned $28,473 on its opening weekend. The film ultimately grossed $7,137,503 in the United States.Critical reception This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (August 2017)
The film was very well received by critics and audiences. Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports a 93% score based on 28 reviews, with an average rating of 7/10.Awards and nominations
In 2014, Lee said that his one regret as a filmmaker was the rape scene in She's Gotta Have It:
"If I was able to have any do-overs, that would be it. It was just totally ... stupid. I was immature. It made light of rape, and that’s the one thing I would take back. I was immature and I hate that I did not view rape as the vile act that it is. I can promise you, there will be nothing like that in 'She's Gotta Have It,' the TV show , that's for sure."Home media
She's Gotta Have It was first released on VHS; on January 15, 2008, it was released on DVD in North America by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment through United Artists and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Despite its availability on DVD in the United Kingdom, the DVD release for Region 1 took longer than expected.
In the mid-1990s, The Criterion Collection released the film on laserdisc. According to Lee's agent, the film was to be eventually released on DVD. Jonathan Turell of The Criterion Collection ended that rumor, saying "No for She's Gotta Have It. We don't have DVD rights." This laserdisc is the only release of the film that has the NC-17-rated director's cut, including sexual content that was cut to obtain an R rating. This release also contains an exclusive commentary by Spike Lee.
In 2010, the film was digitized in High Definition (1080i) and broadcast on MGM HD.TV series Main article: She's Gotta Have It (TV series)
On September 15, 2016, Netflix announced a deal to produce a series based on the film, with Lee returning to direct the first season and serve as executive producer. Ten 30-minute episodes were ordered.References