(director: Spike Lee; screenwriter: Suzan-Lori Parks; cinematographer: Malik Sayeed; editor: Sam Pollard; music: Prince; cast: Theresa Randle (Judy/Girl 6), Isaiah Washington (Shoplifter), Spike Lee (Jimmy), Jenifer Lewis (Boss 1-Lil), Quentin Tarantino (Director 1/Q.T.), Richard Belzer (Caller 4), Halle Berry (Moviestar Lady), John Turturro (Murray the Agent), Madonna (Boss 3), Debi Mazar (Girl 39), Naomi Campbell (Girl 75), Ron Silver (Director 2), Susan Batson (Acting Coach), Michael Imperioli (Scary Caller #30); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Spike Lee; Fox Searchlight Pictures; 1996)
“About as fulfilling as phone-sex.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Superficial plotless pic about the phone-sex business directed by Spike Lee (“Crooklyn”/”She’s Gotta Have It”/”Do The Right Thing”), that’s just about as fulfilling as phone-sex. It’s diverting in its comical depiction of the phone-sex racket, but loses its sense of comedy and rings hollow when it tries to do more– like become serious.This is one of Lee’s lesser films.
Judy (Theresa Randle) is a divorced (from kleptomaniac hubby played by Isaiah Washington), feisty, young African-American college grad and aspiring actress from Queens, who gets frustrated when auditioning for Hollywood director Quentin Tarantino and told to show her boobs. Refusing to strip after reluctantly showing her breasts, she bolts from the audition. Her agent (John Turturro) thereby dumps her as undesirable. Then her acting coach (Susan Batson) yells at her to grow up and refuses to give her more lessons. Needing money to pay the bills, Judy gets hired as Girl 6 in a phone sex hustle and finds she feels safe and in control. The socially disapproved job becomes a cathartic experience where she learns to see herself better and becomes liberated, though her baseball card collector hall neighbor, Jimmy (Spike Lee), keeps putting her down for working with perverts and advises her to be doing something more positive with her life (not bad advice, if you want my two cents).
Problem is no insights are revealed into Judy’s undeveloped character; but she carries this weakly scripted film on her back and is charming as she does perceptive impersonations of Dorothy Dandridge and Pam Grier. For dramatic tension, Lee has Girl 6 enjoying her job too much and letting her guard down to become involved with a crazy (Peter Berg), who has fantasies about killing prostitutes. Lee also goes early New Wave Godard on us and has phones falling from the sky and other strange scenes loaded with meaningless metaphors penned by playwright Suzan-Lori Parks. In the end, Lee seems too anxious to make a million points that mostly are not worth making and reach only predictable conclusions, as the pic falls apart and is held together only by Randle’s sincere performance.
There are many cameos throughout for the star gazing viewer, that include Madonna, Turturro, Tarantino, Ron Silver, Halle Berry, Richard Belzer and Naomi Campbell.
REVIEWED ON 7/12/2011 GRADE: C+ https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/