American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
I am prepared to suspend a great deal of disbelief while watching a movie, but during “Girl 6” I found it difficult to believe that a phone sex girl would get addicted to her job. To the money, sure. To the power over the men who call her, perhaps. But to the sex? Even though Spike Lee's “Girl 6” was written by a woman, it seems conceived from the point of view of a male caller, who would like to believe that the woman he's hiring by the minute is enjoying their conversation just as much as he is. Jennifer Jason Leigh's phone sex girl in Robert Altman's “Short Cuts” was much more realistic as she chatted on the phone in the midst of a family uproar.
Spike Lee is a great director, but his strong point is not leading expeditions into the secret corners of the female psyche. “Girl 6” opens with its star, a would-be actress played by Theresa Randle, reading dialogue used by the character Nola Darling in Lee's first film, “She's Gotta Have It.” That was a film about a woman who satisfied her own sexual needs while remaining bemused by her male suitors. So, in a sense, is “Girl 6.” In a way, both films are about emotional transvestites: The women in them relate to sex in ways more commonly associated with men.
As the movie opens, the future Girl 6 is a struggling actress. Lee shows her struggles in a series of recycled cliches. She auditions for a lustful director (Quentin Tarantino, continuing his world tour of other directors’ movies). She gets a job passing out brochures on the street. She works as a bored coat-check girl. She's fired by her acting coach because she can't afford the payments. OK, we get the idea: She's broke and desperate, and needs to make some money.
But before we continue with her odyssey, let's take another look at that audition scene with Tarantino. He eventually asks her to unbutton her blouse, because he wants to see her breasts. She does not want to. It would diminish and humiliate her. She is angry and tearful. But he claims he's making a big movie with major stars (“Denzel... Wesley...”) and so she does finally expose her breasts. Now if Lee is saying Tarantino is a cretin for making her do this, then logically he shouldn't let us see her breasts even if Tarantino can. But he does. What we have here is a scene about a woman being shamed by exposing herself, and the scene is handled so that she exposes herself. That puts Lee in the same boat with the lecher.