She's Gotta Have It

Nola’s “body and soul” are hers, and she refuses to permanently transfer ownership to anyone, preferring to lend it temporarily to three (or more) men. So there is a problem with presenting her three suitors as facets of the “ideal” man. As suggested here, the film presents “a post-Freudian play on the id/ego/superego concept (roughly transposed to gratification/self-worth/conscience), each of her suitors adds up to the one, complete man”. If that’s true, then when the right guy comes along Nola should drop all her pretentions to self-possession and submit herself to the marriage contract, which is not actually how the film ends. Instead, Jamie is very blatantly set up as Mr. Right (to the point where colour invades the screen for his birthday present to Nola). Nola says she loves him… for now. But she remains determined to avoid monogamy and matrimony, and it is heavily implied at the end that she leaves him.

As Mr. Right is also the guy who rapes her to prove a point (Who’s pussy is this? It’s not yours!) I’m right behind Nola when she walks away, and super disappointed when she caves in. Nola still lives in a society that expects women to belong to men, and we could all do with being more open-minded about the way people chose to structure their romantic relationships. My question is why in the hell would anyone want to spend their valuable time with Nola? I mean, she is beautiful and wealthy, so maybe if you’re shallow (Greer) or broke (Mars). But she is also JUST as boring as Jamie, if not more so. I’m mystified as to why he tries so hard! The problem with the film is that Tracy Camilla Johns fails to embody the liberated woman she is supposed to represent.

This is about acting, and there’s not a lot of it about here. The absolute worst is Nola’s father, who plays the piano very well but then delivers his lines atrociously to the camera, almost as if he’s reading the script aloud for the first time and is unsure exactly what the words mean. Lee himself is only passingly convincing as the smart-talking (though not actually that smart-mouthed) Mars. The film was made on a shoe-string, it’s a debut, and it shows. It may be historically significant and admirable in its ambition, but it’s still a failure, since for long stretches you simply don’t care whether Nola ends up with Jamie or not.

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