She’s Gotta Have It

Released:  1986

Cast:  Tracy Camilla Johns, Tommy Redmond Hicks, John Canada Terrell, Spike Lee, Raye Dowell

SUMMARY:  Nola Darling (Tracy Camilla Johns) is a young woman living in Brooklyn, New York.  Nola loves men, and has three boyfriends:  Jamie Overstreet (Tommy Redmond Hicks), an upstanding, responsible young man who wants to settle down; Greer Childs (John Canada Terrell), a model who is obsessed with appearances, both his own and Nola’s; and Mars Blackmon (Spike Lee), who is funny but immature.  Nola is open about her relationships with the other men – all three know she is seeing two others.  The men dislike the situation, as they each want Nola for themselves, but Nola repeatedly refuses to commit too much to any of them, or break up with them.  Things come to a head when Nola invites all three men over for Thanksgiving dinner.  While Jamie is polite, primarily speaking to Nola, Mars and Greer trade insults, and each asks Nola to send the other away several times.  Ultimately, this dinner causes all three men to change their opinions of Nola.  Greer believes that Nola sees them as a group, rather than individuals, but Mars and Jamie become upset at Nola’s selfishness and disregard for their feelings.  However, only Jamie takes action.  He tells Nola that she must choose one of them; when she refuses, he breaks ties with her.  He then moves on to another girlfriend, but Nola starts to miss him.  One night, she calls him and begs him to come over, which he angrily does.  At Nola’s apartment, she tries to seduce him, but Jamie gets even angrier.  Eventually, he nearly rapes Nola (this has been referred to as a rape by Spike Lee himself, although Nola seemed somewhat encouraging in the film, and referred to it as a “near-rape”).  This seems to show Nola how angry Jamie really is, and after several more days without him, she decides to dump Greer and Mars, and be only with Jamie.  Jamie has mixed feelings about this, as he has feelings for Nola, but has been trying to move past her.  When she tells him that she has also decided to be celibate for some time, he turns down her offer to reunite.  Nola walks away, but Jamie calls her back, and the two resume their relationship.  However, this situation did not last long; Nola’s celibacy doesn’t last long, and both she and Jamie soon cheated on each other.  Nola believes that her decision to be only with Jamie was a mistake, brought on by the fear of losing him:  she believes that she is a naturally promiscuous, and that monogamy is not for her.  As the film ends, Nola goes to bed alone.

MY TAKE:  I’m not really sure what the point of this movie is, and I find it hard to sympathize with any of the characters.  I think all three men are idiots for staying with Nola when she’s openly sleeping with (at least) two other men, and I think Nola’s an idiot for doing that in the first place.  I suppose if each of the men tolerates the situation, she doesn’t really have any reason to change – she’s definitely using them, not the other way around.  Still, it’s hard to have respect for someone who basically sleeps with any guy that walks past her.  I could also have done without so much sex in the movie:  it seems like every five minutes you see Nola’s boobs.  It’s pretty clear what the basis of her relationships is, particularly with Greer and Mars, so I don’t need a play-by-play.  Actually, the scene I enjoyed the most was the Thanksgiving dinner, where Mars and Greer were trying to one-up insult each other.  Mars keeps picking at Greer’s overblown ego, while Greer throws Mars’ lack of education in his face – particularly when they’re playing Scrabble.  Mars tries to play the word “gonna”, and when Greer insists that it’s not a word, Mars uses it in a sentence – “I’m gonna kick your ass.”  As with most relationships where someone is cheating, the cheat-ees bicker more with each other than with the heel who is cheating on them, but if it’s not logical, at least it’s entertaining.  Mars and Jamie eventually develop something of a friendship, but Greer ignores all of them after Nola dumps him.  Not a big loss, as he was really annoying.  The ending of the film is kind of ambiguous, as Nola talks about how she likes having multiple partners, but then, in a rather subdued manner, goes to bed alone.  Perhaps she has realized that while she likes this arrangement, few other people are able or willing to handle it.  An interesting fact:  this was Spike Lee’s first feature-length film, and because of budget constraints, several family members appear in the movie (including Spike himself, in his first acting role).  The guy that plays Nola’s father is actually Spike’s father – if you watch the end, when the actors are identifying themselves, you can hear Spike say, “Okay, Dad” before Bill Lee introduces himself.  Also, the woman who plays Nola’s ex-roommate is Spike’s sister, Joie Lee.  You can tell this if you look at her, as she noticeably resembles Spike.  Bill Lee also wrote the music for the film.

RATING:  Mediocre.



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