Jungle Fever (1991)

R   |    |  Drama, Romance


Jungle Fever (1991) Poster

Friends and family of a married black architect react in different ways to his affair with an Italian secretary.


6.6/10
17,436

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18 December 2006 | bob the moo
Fitfully interesting but lacks a strong point and doesn't hang together all that well
Flipper Purify is a successful architect with a beautiful wife and a smart young daughter back at his apartment. When he gets a new temp in to work alongside him he is not pleased that she is white but her hard work impresses him. Working late one night, chatting becomes a connection which becomes flirting which becomes sex. Their affair continues even as Flipper quits his job to branch out alone. However his life is thrown into chaos when his wife Drew finds out.

The opening credits are catchy and the material is just the sort of racial issue that Spike Lee made his name but somehow the film itself really failed to catch my imagination or hold my attention. The central plot is simple enough but Lee fills it out with characters, debate and a couple of subplots but yet somehow doesn't manage to pull it all together into one compelling film. Of course those that like Spike Lee know that even when he is at his most average he can still make an interesting film. And so it is here because the film does have plenty of interesting scenes but it is the narrative and formulation of his point where it fails to come off. In his defence Lee has written some convincingly real characters with unfortunately real attitudes but by leaving these people mostly unchallenged to deliver their opinions he allows two things to happen. Firstly the film feels like a series of disjointed conversations – most of which are interesting enough to listen to but don't a total film make.

Secondly, and more importantly, Lee appears to be in agreement with some of his characters that mixed race relationships are not a good idea. If this is not his opinion then he has done a poor job in putting his thoughts across. If he is in agreement then he has done a poor job in presenting this point in a coherent and convincing fashion. Instead it seems like the racists have won – which is maybe is his point but if so yet again he hasn't done a good job of putting it across. In fact thinking about it, his point probably is that it all isn't worth the effort but, like I say, it isn't very well delivered and a lot of the ideas are half-cooked. The cast make it well worth a look regardless thanks to Lee's usual skill in assembling his actors. Snipes has massively fallen from grace in regards his career and his personal life but here he is pretty good. The material is just a little beyond his range but he does the basics well. Sciorra is better and works well with him. Lee is Lee while McKee is rather wasted with her simplistic race rage. Quinn is a nice touch in support while Turturro is as good as I have come to expect from him. Davis and Dee are good but they exist in another film, albeit the drugs subplot is interesting and both Jackson and Berry are impressive but it doesn't really fit. Lee's direction is his usual style but his use of soundtrack is weak – the tunes themselves are good but he doesn't put them across the film with any reason or sense of meaning.

Overall then an fitfully interesting film as is usually the way with Lee but one that failed to come together or deliver a convincing central message. The depressing message that does come across isn't that well made and as a result isn't as thought provoking as it should have been. The casting is interesting though and the performances mostly do as required in the many good individual scenes. Famous but not as good as the names attached would make you hope.

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Box Office

Budget:

$14,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$5,332,860 9 June 1991

Gross USA:

$32,482,682

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$43,882,682

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