Spike Lee’s First Feature Film Finally Arrives on DVD
She’s Gotta Have It (1986)
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Directors: Spike Lee
Format: AC-3, Black & White, Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
Language: English, Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Rated R for nudity, language and sexuality.
Running time: 85 minutes
Studio: MGM/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
DVD Review by Kam Williams
Excellent (4 stars)
After 22 years, Spike Lee’s feature film debut still more than holds up for a bare bones production made on a shoestring budget in a dozen days. Shot on locations scattered around the Brooklyn native’s neighborhood, this inner city romantic comedy chronicles the amorous misadventures of Nola Darling (Tracy Camila Johns), a sex-starved sister who, well, who has just gotta have it.
So, over the course of the romantic romp we find Nola juggling three different dudes at once: jealous, marriage-minded Jamie Overstreet (Tommy Redmond Hicks), vain fashion model Greer Childs (John Canada Terrell) and lowly bike messenger Mars Blackman (Spike Lee). However, the unapologetic feminist steadfastly refuses to commit to any of her beaus who bicker amongst each other while also fending off the overtures of a solicitous lesbian, Opal Gilstrap (Raye Dowell).
Considered somewhat controversial at the time of its release due to a sexist double standard which deemed its heroine’s sexual habits slutty, She’s Gotta Have It worked, in part, precisely because of the novelty of her defiance. But the movie’s most memorable moments belonged to Spike himself in a scene-stealing performance which he would soon parlay into a big payday as a pitchman for Nike Air Jordans in a string of TV commercials.
The film is also noteworthy because it launched not only Lee’s historic career but that of numerous other African-American thespians like S. Epatha Merkerson and actors-turned-directors Eric Dickerson (Juice) and Reggie Hudlin (House Party). Finally, it features some of what would become Spike’s trademark cinematic stylings, such as his having folks address the camera directly.
New York Negro neurosis as source material for mirth, amusement and introspection, like a Woody Allen classic, only in blackface.