When Will I Be Loved

Reviewed By Erik Childress
Posted 09/13/04 21:45:22

"How About When You Get Naked, Neve?"
3 stars (Just Average)

SCREENED AT THE 2004 TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: If you walk in during the opening titles of James Tobackís When Will I Be Loved, you will get to catch Neve Campbell naked in the shower. If you stumble in too early before the next showing, youíll get to see Neve Campbell naked in the shower. Youíve gotta love a director willing to bookend his film with the best parts on display for easy skipping on the DVD. Hey, if you donít want us to write about it, donít gratuitously include it in the movie. Alas it is not the only thing in the film which is part Indecent Proposal, part Toback wordiness and is so short it feels like a one-act play with a curtain that never rises again.

Campbell plays Vera, in what could be an alternate future reality of her Wild Things character. She comes from money, as evidenced by the upscale New York apartment that daddy pays for, but may be looking for a little direction in her life. The opening scenes depict her stroll through the streets of the city alongside Hassan al-Ibrahim ben Rabinowitz (writer/director Toback, resembling Josh Mostel), an anthropology professor whom she rightly suspects has more than just mentoring on his mind. But sheís not so innocent either, taking lapses in the conversation as an opportunity to hit on attractive strangers.

Crosscut over the first 20 minutes is Veraís boyfriend, Ford (Frederick Weller, The Shape of Things), doing his own impersonation of Colin Farrell in Phone Booth. Heís a hustler with a cellular who isnít ashamed to conduct a foursome in the park to test out the latest flesh heís going to be peddling. When he fails miserably with his rich clientel (including hip-hop artist Damon Dash), an old proposal comes back to fruition thanks to Count Tommaso Lupo (Dominic Chianese, aka Junior Soprano). Although heís only seen Vera by chance on two occasions, heís willing to offer a generous cash donation to see what we saw during the opening titles. Thankfully we only have to pay $9.

Playing this scenario out in your mind, Vera might seem in prime position to play the victim in this manís world of monetary gain and sexual gratification. Toback establishes his theme fairly early that people may not be all they appear to be, crafting a fine line in the relationship between teacher and student; businessman and pimp. Ford sells himself behind a sales pitch but is nothing more than a Times Square tit barker in good clothing. The professor preaches a world of racial harmony but sees a bonus in young women looking to him for guidance. Vera blatantly hides aspects of her artistic abilities and sexuality but isnít afraid to videotape them. Even Mike Tyson cameos an appearance and tries to prove heís not himself.

Tobackís narrative is broken up into bits which seem mostly improvised as the editor tries to create a vacuum of symmetry between the conversations. When the film settles down into plotting tÍte-ŗ-tÍtes, even the characters canít help discuss their similarity to Demi & Woody. The film does have one truly great scene and itís the encounter between Vera and the Count. No, he doesnít enter saying ďI...AM THE COUNT!Ē, spout off sequential numbers or shout ďSLEEEEEEEEPPPP!!!!!Ē As if Toback wanted to outclass Adrian Lyne, he crafts crisp, intelligent dialogue for the two. Vera plays the upper hand sizing up her wannabe suitor and Count Tommy (by his request) carefully chooses how to answer and what questions are appropriate to get some firm and hard Neve action. Hey Ė if they can use that half-double entendre about a bed three times, I can strip it down and use it properly.

Behavior takes an ugly turn from this point on. Yes, even compared to the debauched drapery everyone is already cloaked in. As someone adept at problem-solving/time-saving, Vera has a rather uncomplicated solution right in front of her but instead handles it in such a way that makes her as vile as those she plans to deliver just deserts. Tobackís misplaced attempt at take-charge, role-reversed feminism backfires as his movie exits itself so quick it barely has time to zip up. Although it still managed to leave the money on Veraís nightstand.

Dissecting the nudity which is clearly the filmís biggest draw is hardly worth the trouble. Itís not much of an artistic venture, speaking no greater volumes than the metaphor of Vera rincing away her sins. A good rainstorm and a Shawshank camera move could have settled that. Campbell holds her own nicely in her scene with the Count, but she is far miscast as some fatal femme. She comes off as more cute than sexual despite her fabulous dancerís body. Good films can often remind us why we go to the cinema in the first place. When Will I Be Loved doesnít exactly fall into that category, but its final shot does remind us why we went to see it; to see what we never did on Party of Five or in Wild Things.

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