Don't worry, Spike. I understand.
But the Little Heaven church remains and so does Bishop Enoch, wearing his love of God on his sleeve, always smiling, hoping, believing, testifying and urging people to let Jesus into their hearts. Played fully-throated by Clarke Peters (forever Lester Freamon from The Wire) he's the model of community leadership. . . or so it would seem.
One of the people he talks to is Mookie, now Mr. Mookie, Spike Lee's pizza delivery man from Do The Right Thing. Wearing a cap that reads HNIC, Mookie comes off as a bit of a sage these days, offering a profound lesson in how to hold a pizza box so the cheese stays put. It's great to see him on screen again.
Mookie is just one of the peripheral, great characters that get a moment on stage. Being a white man with his share of liberal guilt, I was naturally fascinated with Kevin, the secular social activist and swim coach who has a nuanced relationship with the Little Heaven church. There's also Deacon Z, the Wall Street Journal reading aide-de-camp with a “love for the grape” who turns a blind eye to Flik's occasional theft of the Church's supply of UTZ potato chips.
Red Hook Summer is an extremely stylized film. The music always seems too loud, the 4th wall breaks have no pattern and the flatly delivered tick-tock dialogue can be off putting. “Feels like a high school play,” a colleague grumbled. Whatever. It's a choice, they went for it, it's a singular vision of a population that is underrepresented on film and you either roll with it or you don't.
There's a twist, of course, and some darkness as the film builds to a crescendo chorus. The final thirty minutes could very well be the best thing Spike Lee has ever done. It is big and emotional, but so is being young and there's something about this city that makes every conflict seem like the most important thing in the world. There are plot holes a-plenty (no mother would ever do that, is something many, myself included, have said about one revelation) but the ratio of missteps to gorgeous, rich moments definitely favors the latter. If someone were to see this film and hate it I couldn't argue that: there is much about this movie that is bad. But those who reject to simply let Red Hook Summer into their heart risk losing a little bit of their soul.