Cinephillia 004 | She's Gotta Have It [Netflix]
When I was a kid, my parents hid a VHS copy of the movie this series is based on, at the very top of the china cabinet in our dinning room. I never stood on top of a chair and a small stack of books to find that out, or watched it or anything, of course...honest.
Here's some background for those unfamiliar (taken from the Netflix YouTube channel):
Who is Nola Darling? Return to the story and character of the very first Spike Lee joint, now a 10 episode series on Netflix.
Thirty years ago, Spike Lee burst onto the independent filmmaking scene with his groundbreaking look at one free-spirited artist making it happen for herself in BROOKLYN, New York. Now, Miss Nola Darling returns in a timely, topical update of the visionary writer-director’s She’s Gotta Have It.
The series stars breakout actress DeWanda Wise as Nola Darling, an uncompromising woman in her late twenties struggling to define herself and divide her time among her Friends, her Job and her Three Lovers: The Cultured Model, Greer Childs, The Protective Investment Banker, Jamie Overstreet and Da Original B-Boy Sneakerhead, Mars Blackmon. Nola is not who you want her to be. Nola is now—she is outspoken, complicated, progressive, unapologetic, passionate, sexual. Nola is the modern black woman.
Nola’s story is set entirely in Fort Greene, the vibrant BROOKLYN enclave that’s home to a thriving artists’ colony but also evolving and changing in the modern era as gentrification remakes the neighborhood. Fort Greene isn’t just a backdrop for She’s Gotta Have It—the community functions as a key supporting character unto itself.
Created and executive produced by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee through their 40 Acres banner, She’s Gotta Have It stars DeWanda Wise, Lyriq Bent, Cleo Anthony, Ilfenesh Hadera, Margot Bingham, and Anthony Ramos as Mars Blackmon, the iconic role originated by Spike Lee.
I really enjoyed this extended exploration of the complexities of sexual autonomy.
Spike Lee is one of only a handful of art house directors, that I can name, who receives a decent amount of mainstream attention, which should be an oxymoron, but I'm glad that it isn't in this instance.
In observing art, it's important for me to keep criticisms of personal taste and technical merit segregated, and to know the difference between the two. So even though Spike Lee kills me with how on-the-nose his social commentary can be — sometimes literally spelling things out for his audience, as he does here in a few scenes, stopping short of having Keenen Ivory Wayans pop up in the corner to say, “MESSAGE!” — the visual language he uses to communicate is always distinct, vibrant, consistent, unmistakably Spike, unapologetic(ly black), and purposeful...even if it can sometimes come across to me as unfocused and wildly self-indulgent.
The fact that a large corporate entity like Netflix is willing to give him buckets of money to produce something THIS niche and THIS Black, is impressive.
*sidenote: I want that soundtrack!