‘She’s Gotta Have It’ gets it right on Netflix
LAPACAZO SANDOVAL | 11/30/2017, 4:14 p.m.
Professor Spike Lee gets it right in Netflix joint ‘She’s Gotta Have It,” and that includes the opening credits, which contain flashes of the dearly departed Prince and Notorious B.I.G. Lee brings the viewer way back and pushes the viewer ahead as only the lead character, New York’s Nola Darling, could do. Correction. Brooklyn, New York’s darling, does.
The re-boot from the movie classic by the same name stars “Shots Fired” and “Underground” alum DeWanda Wise, who springs Nola Darling to life. She’s the homegirl you love, admire, envy and sometimes just want to yell at. Shoutout to Spike Lee for allowing Nola to express our frustration with the gentrification of her beloved Brooklyn, which is echoed uptown in Harlem, Washington Heights and beyond.
She’s every Black woman just trying to make it—so Forte Greene, Brooklyn—in every urban city with history and attitude. Nola is sexually awake and fluid. She’s not a lonely girl.
Nola’s got her men—Greer Childs (Cleo Anthony), Jaime Overstreet (Lyriq Bent) and Mars Blackmon (Anthony Ramos), and not a one of them disappoint on screen. Black power to the sisterhood, she’s also got her girlfriends Shemekka Epps (Chayna Lane) and Clorinda Bradford (Margot Bingham), a lady lover (Ilfenesh Hadera) and a serious therapist (Heather Headley).
Gentrification is chasing her like a dog with a bone, the coin is tight, but Nola isn’t scared, she’s living, and how she does that living, with whom she makes love—all of it—she created on her own terms.
The writing staff for this series reads like a dream, with Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage, Radha Blank, Eisa Davis and Joie Lee. Read between the lines. This “She’s Gotta Have It” is clearly for and by Black women. Lee brilliantly directs all 10 episodes.
As in the original film, Nola and those around her break the fourth wall and address the camera and the audience directly. Lee does the character and the actress proud by giving such beautiful space for the poetic dialogue, which is rich, to build itself into the viewer’s mind.
Each episode opens with hashtags such as #DaJumpOff and #NolasChoice, giving us clues into what new adventure Miss Darling is getting into next. She’s a painter, and we see her work grow episode by episode. A terrifying encounter with a random man on the street during the premiere episode becomes the catalyst for the evolution of her art; the incident also forces her to reflect on the men in her life. Colorful characters each and every one.
First there is Jaime, an older married gentleman, who likes trying to cage a wild thang. Ramos’ Mars, a role made famous by Lee himself, is the most memorable of the men. The “Hamilton” alum and Brooklyn native puts his own spin on the iconic character as a hilarious native son of the Fort Greene projects. The sneaker-head and Michael Jordan fanatic lives with his overprotective Yoruba Priestess sister LuLu (Santana Caress Benitez). He makes Nola really laugh. Playboy Greer is a self-proclaimed “biracial Adonis,” played by Anthony, who provides much-needed depth to the model/photographer. All three of these men know how to make Nola happy in her loving bed. The series is very close to perfect, but it’s the flaws that make it interesting.
Kudos again to the creative writing staff because “She’s Gotta Have It” is a “drop the mike” encyclopedia of Black culture encompassing art, music and cinema. Lee, with glee, sprinkles album covers, movie posters and art throughout the series. Always the professor, Lee provides tangible references for his audience to take with them and continue exploring beyond their television screens.
In this series some of the best moments from the iconic movie are made even better. To wit, the infamous Thanksgiving dinner scene. Nola and all of her men get together, and the result is as delicious as the feast on the table. Arguably the best episode of the series. So much to be thankful for in the finale of season one, including a feast, blunts and the deconstruction of the male ego.
Netflix’s “She’s Gotta Have It” shows us all that great things are still coming from professor/filmmaker/storyteller Spike Lee.