Jungle Fever

Spike Lee’s high-powered, all-over-the-place movie about interracial romance (Wesley Snipes and Annabella Sciorra), crack addiction (a remarkable turn by Samuel L. Jackson), breaking away from one’s family (a theme that crops up in at least five households, with Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Anthony Quinn, and Frank Vincent among the parents), and corporate advancement for blacks (Snipes again), chiefly set in two New York neighborhoods (Harlem and Bensonhurst). The disparate themes never quite come together, but with strong and inventive direction, juicy dialogue, and many fine performances–John Turturro, as Sciorra’s ex-boyfriend, is especially impressive, Lonette McKee is good as Snipes’s aggrieved wife, and Lee is also around briefly as Snipes’s best friend–you won’t be bored for a minute. There’s also a richly upholstered score featuring Stevie Wonder, a huge orchestra, and the Boys Choir of Harlem, along with recordings by Mahalia Jackson, Frank Sinatra, and others. The overall effect is that of a kind of living newspaper, with stories and subplots crowding one another for front-page space, and so many voices heard that you may feel at times like you’re swimming through a maelstrom; but thanks to Lee, it’s a maelstrom that’s superbly orchestrated. (Broadway, Burnham Plaza, Chestnut Station, Golf Glen, Plaza, Evanston, Hyde Park, Norridge, Harlem-Cermak, Double Drive-In, Bel-Air Drive-In)

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