City Paper is not for tourists
Phone sex is such a perfect metaphor for capitalist commodification that it really should have been invented by Marxist pranksters. Intimacy debased and alienated for the profit of grasping hustlers, the sex-chat trade makes a mockery of those boosters who insist that higher tech will make life more rather than less human.
These thoughts, I should note, were not sparked by Girl 6, Spike Lee’s aimless, pointless, and largely worthless phone-sex comedy.
The first film Lee has made from someone else’s script, Girl 6 never reaches for anything more meaningful than its video-montage opening credits, its soundtrack of (mostly recycled) Prince tunes, or such crude MTV-style imagery as phones raining from the sky. Suzan-Lori Parks’ screenplay lacks a point of view, and Lee’s merely energetic direction doesn’t bother to provide one. It’s a chance for the director to return to the flip, eclectic style of his lightest-weight movies, She’s Gotta Have It and Crooklyn, and he does so with much enthusiasm but little conviction.
Girl 6 is a fledgling actress (a lively, winning Theresa Randle) who’s introduced while auditioning for a hot loudmouth director (inevitably Quentin Tarantino, the first in a string of ineffectual cameos). He commands that she display her breasts, and she walks out—though not before showing him (and us) what he wants to see. Dumped by her agent (John Turturro) for this impolitic move, she’s then berated by her autocratic, unsympathetic acting teacher. After a quick montage of dead-end jobs, porno-chatter begins to look appealing.
Turning down an offer from a gleefully frank phone-sex madam (inevitably Madonna), 6 takes a position at a slightly more staid operation. To the tune of “Nasty Girl,” she begins to enjoy her work, a development that distresses her baseball card–collecting neighbor and pal, Jimmy (Lee, indulging his sports fandom), and excites her ex-husband, who vainly tries to restart their relationship. She also develops a crush on one of her regulars, which leads to an arty attempted-rendezvous sequence that’s apparently supposed to be poignant.
6 aspires to be ’50s actress Dorothy Dandridge, one of the first African-Americans to become a Hollywood star, and Lee stages a parody of a Dandridge scene, as well as fake snippets from a Foxy Brown flick and an episode of The Jeffersons (featuring the director’s very broad impersonation of George Jefferson). There’s also a vaguely connected subplot about an 8-year-old girl injured in an elevator accident, as well as a variety of phone-sex fantasies either narrated or acted out by 6 and her co-workers. These are presented, more or at less at random, as erotic, ridiculous, or ominous.
As might be expected, one of the few matters that holds Lee’s attention throughout this scattershot film is race. The members of the diversely pigmented phone-sex crew are instructed to identify themselves as blond unless the caller requests otherwise, and Lee returns several times to the ironic spectacle of black women describing their Nordic features to their eager callers. (He also gets Tarantino to lampoon his own pretensions as a neo-blaxploitation auteur.) But is Girl 6 reduced to sex chat because she’s black or because she’s a woman trying to make a career in the sexist movie biz? Girl 6 has no answers to such questions, and for most of its running time it doesn’t even seem to be thinking about them. CP