Lee falls short

April 13, 2013

When RHS started, the time frame – specifically the emphasis on the time frame – threw me off. I was shocked to see Lee using props like iPads as a central part of a storyline. In fact, a lot of the character traits found in Flik and Chazz were bizarre. It’s very evident that there is a generational gap going on here – the young characters found in Lee’s films in 2012 are a lot less natural than young characters found in his films from the 90’s. All of the dialogue and attitude that the two partook in were a cringe-inducing attempt at trying to replicate the behavior of kids born in the 20th century, which Lee seems to have no experience with, or at least a very skewed experience with. On top of the actor who played Flik not being particularly good at his job, the fact that he carried around an iPad like a video camera read like a watered-down criticism of materialism in the middle class. Children and teenagers in Lee’s films are always over the top and comical, which he was definitely attempting with Chazz and Flik, but it was not believable or amusing, and incredibly contrived. I was trying to keep in mind that Lee’s films don’t always follow a straight narrative form, but the first half of the film was all over the place in terms of storyline and character growth. It feels as though Lee has lost the ability to write child characters anymore. What was interesting about RHS, however, was that once the storyline switched it’s focus to Deacon Zee, the film became much stronger. The acting was more moving, the action shocking and upsetting (almost like a “wake up!” moment) and the tensions within the church community started to spiral in a manner that was both intriguing to watch and complex in nature. It was suddenly a Spike Lee Joint again, with highlights of current problems and a focus on a community battling demons both from the inside and the outside. I just can’t figure out why Lee waited til an hour into the film to start doing what he does best. The first half fell so flat, I was certain that it was going to be a flop. Once Deacon Zee moved into the spotlight and Flik backed out, the film picked up…why the film didn’t center on the Deacon from the start is beyond me. It seemed frivolous and self-indulgent to spend so much time on Flik. Was Lee experimenting, and trying to see if he could still write children? If so, I would argue that he has lost his touch.