I recently watch the 1991 movie Jungle Fever for a class about Italian immigrants. It was pretty much unrelated to the class but was a good movie. My only complaint was it was too long and too many characters were not only introduced, but their story lines were followed through until the end.
The movie is about Flipper (Wesley Snipes) a black man who is happily married. His brother (Samuel L. Jackson) is a crack head and his parents are really strict in religion and cultural views. He meets an Italian woman Angie (Annabella Sciorra) and like the title lets on, Flipper and Angie get some jungle fever. They have an affair and chaos ensues with Flipper’s wife, and Angie’s family who hates blacks. Flipper and Angie move in together but realize it can’t really work out because the neighborhoods haven’t accepted interracial relationships yet.
There are a ton of other side stories going on. Flipper’s brother Gator steals from people even his own family to get his next fix. His crack whore is played by Halle Berry. That was pretty funny and surprising to see Berry in such a role. The film was written and directed by Spike Lee who has a cameo as Flipper’s guy friend. John Turturro has a supporting role as one of Angie’s love interest. I personally recognized Turturro from Mr. Deeds but he has been in nearly 100 other movies. On a side note, I recently saw a Lifetime movie called Identity Theft: The Michelle Brown Story. It’s from 2004 and has Annabella Sciorra as a poor woman who steals the identity of a middle class white woman (Kimberly Williams-Paisely). I’ve been watching more Lifetime recently and it was a really good movie!
While the numerous plot lines were overwhelming the movie did a good job showing the character’s struggles and as a viewer you empathize with them. It was evident how tough it was to be a black or immigrant in New York even at the time of the movie, and how taboo interracial relations were. The themes of temptation, lust, family, race, etc. were all very effective in the film. So if you have 2. 5 hours and want to see the early roles of some now great actors check out Jungle Fever. And I mean, any movie that begins with passionate sex and Stevie Wonder’s “Jungle Fever” is bound to be of quality, right?