Jungle Fever ★★

Spike Lee Filmography Rewatch.

There's a lot to like here, right off the bat. Ernest Dickerson's cinematography is still distinctive and vivid (there's an extended shot that leads an argument down from the offices of upper management and into the cubicles of the lower level employees that alternates between shades of beige and inflammatory red in a way that perfectly compliments the emotions being expressed), Wesley Snipes and Annabella Sciorra are both charismatic leads despite being the weakest written characters, and there are at least three set pieces that hint at what a better version of this film might have been. At this point in his career Spike Lee had made a handful of good to great movies centered around the black middle class, and it's a real shame that this one interrupts that streak.

The script is overstuffed, overwritten, and meandering in a way that ultimately fails to come together in a decisive way. It's disappointing to see a filmmaker who is mostly known for his refusal to suppress his beliefs -- who had touched on issues of colorism in his films before (it's honestly one of the more interesting parts of School Daze) -- set up a film about interracial relationships where interracial relationships are arguably the least explored element. The scenes involving an Italian family border on stereotypes again (Hello again, John Turturro, and as much as I like you at some point we'll probably need to discuss your willingness to let Hollywood cast you as whatever race it deems necessary), and a subplot involving Samuel L. Jackson as a crack addict can't decide if it belongs in a better movie or a badly aged Chappelle Show sketch.

The final moments of the film, including the last shot, are maybe the worst ending of a film I've ever seen. All in all, a real letdown, and one has to wonder if this was a depository for Lee's undeveloped script ideas while he was getting ready to make next year's Malcolm X.

You can't win 'em all. Onwards.