Directed by Spike Lee. Starring Theresa Randle, Isaiah Washington, Spike Lee, Debi Mazar, Jennifer Lewis, John Turturro, Madonna, Quentin Tarantino, Naomi Campbell, Ron Silver, Richard Belzer, Halle Berry. (1996, R, 105 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., March 29, 1996
A beautiful mess. Lee's take on the phone-sex industry opens with a shot of Girl 6 (Randle), an aspiring actress, as she reads a monologue for Tarantino (playing himself, natch). It's the same monologue that Lee used for the character of Nola Darling in his debut film She's Gotta Have It, and it marks this new film as, one would hope, something of a return to the director's earlier days. Uh-huh. Whatever. Lee's tale of Girl 6's descent into the sleazy world of the phone-sex industry lacks the good-natured, honest humor of his debut. Girl 6 has all the subtle yuks of an Al Sharpton sermon and nearly half the tender honesty of Mike Tyson. Unable to find a job acting, Girl 6 takes up the phone-bone game under the tutelage of Lewis' Lil, a old-school phone gal who quickly shows 6 the ropes and gets her foot in the door. Before long, 6 is the toast of the service, and before long, she's obliterated the line between fantasy and reality, coming right along with her customers. But then, as Lil reminds 6 early on, a satisfied customer always calls back. When not beating the audience over the head with prosaic moralizing, Lee goes on a cinematic bender, cramming in every stylistic trick he's ever used, from those annoying “floating character” shots that nearly destroyed Clockers, to gobs of brightly lit artifice, and even a surrealistic rain of pastel phones falling from the sky as Girl 6 embraces her estranged husband. Characters talking to you from the screen? You got it. An abundance of trippy lighting effects? Got it. Flashbacks, vignettes, parodies, proselytizing, and John Turturro? You'd better believe it. It's a mess alright, but it's easy on the eyes. Like phone sex is for the ears. Only not as much fun.