Talk It Up

Spike Lee works the phone-sex lines, but loses his connection

Girl 6 is the first produced screenplay by award-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks. There can be no denying that Parks has a sharp eye for character detail and a sympathetic ear for revealing dialogue. But Lee really should have sent her back for rewrites, or at least ripped a few pages from her final draft. As it stands, the movie makes repeated references to an inner-city tragedy -- a little girl falls down an elevator shaft -- that's meant to serve as some kind of symbol for Judy's own descent into moral darkness (or something like that). At first, this subplot is mildly distracting. Gradually, however, it develops into a major annoyance.

Even more annoying is the way Parks and Lee drag in a foul-mouthed stalker whose sole purpose is to shock Judy out of her life on the wild side. It's not enough that Judy somehow becomes addicted to the cheap thrill of phone sex, to the point that she drives herself to the brink of mental and physical collapse. No, we have to have a psycho pop up to provide a cheaply melodramatic physical threat, to make Judy suffer for her "sins."

Of course, it's quite possible that Spike Lee simply got bored with the subject of phone sex midway through filming and haphazardly grasped at something, or anything, to wrap things up. This wouldn't be the first time Lee's enthusiasm for a plot waned before the closing credits. In the course of Jungle Fever, he obviously lost interest in the interracial romance between Wesley Snipes and Annabella Sciorra and shifted his focus toward the flamboyant crack addict played by Samuel L. Jackson. But at least he focused on something. In Girl 6, he tries to get by on attitude and razzle-dazzle. It doesn't work: the final 30 minutes of the movie seem rushed, slapped together and, at times, nearly incoherent.

The upbeat ending suggests Judy has finally gotten her act together, and is ready to take the worst Hollywood has to offer. Unfortunately, despite Randle's game and sometimes affecting performance, we don't know much more about her character at the movie's end than we do at the very beginning. Like a good phone-sex operator, she's pleasant company, and quite engaging when she wants to be. But she keeps her distance.

Girl 6 is by no means a waste. In the end, however, it feels too much like Spike Lee is marking time, merely keeping his hand in between more substantial projects.

Girl 6. Directed by Spike Lee. With Theresa Randle, Jenifer Lewis and Debi Mazur. Rated R. 109 minutes.

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