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SHE’S GOTTA HAVE IT (director/writer: Spike Lee; cinematographer: Ernest R. Dickerson; editor: Spike Lee; music: Bill Lee; cast: Tracy Camilla Johns (Nola Darling), Tommy Redmond Hicks (Jamie Overstreet), John Canada Terrell (Greer Childs), Spike Lee (Mars Blackmon), Raye Dowell (Opal Gilstrap), Joie Lee (Clorinda Bradford), Bill Lee (Nola’s father); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Spike Lee; The Criterion Collection; 1986)
“A good first effort that lacks quality acting and overall polish, but compensates with insightful black man’s humor.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Spike Lee’s (“Do The Right Thing”) feature film debut was shot in fifteen days on a budget of $175,000. It’s a good first effort that lacks quality acting and overall polish, but compensates with insightful black man’s humor. The breezy but slight comedy/romance goes from one vignette to another, but grows increasingly tiresome in the process. Bill Lee, the father of Spike, wrote the jazz musical score.

The film focuses around the statuesque and charismatic Nola Darling (Camilla Johns), as it tries to figure out what makes this sexually active liberated young lady tick. She has a good job as an art designer and a spacious Brooklyn pad, where she entertains three diverse macho suitors, Jamie Overstreet (Tommy Redmond Hicks), Greer Childs (John Canada Terrell) and Mars Blackmon (Spike Lee). Jamie is the sincere but corny type, who is marriage-minded and overly possessive; Greer is a vain male model, who comes off as a pseudo-blackman and a pompous fool; while Mars is a diminutive, fast-talking comical character, who is a bicycle messenger without good career prospects. Each of them is far from Nola’s ideal man.

Spike Lee is a hoot as the passionate fan describing Celtic star Larry Byrd as the ugliest man in the NBA. He reminds me of an African-American version of Woody Allen. Camilla Johns is likable in the role of the confused woman juggling around the three squabbling men who childishly denigrate each other and holding off the advances of her lesbian friend (Raye Dowell), while she tries to figure out what she wants in life. The movie was better when I saw it upon its release, signaling a breakthrough for small indies and black films. But upon seeing it again at this late date, it has not aged well. REVIEWED ON 11/23/2005 GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”